BENGALURU:Writing, even pulp fiction, needs meticulous planning. Therefore, crime fiction writer Zac O'Yeah gave aspiring authors some tips at his workshop ‘How to write Chillers and Thrillers’ at the recent Bangalore Literature Festival.
“Tragedy, conflict, high drama and tricky situations are what we need to focus on if we want to write novels that become popular,” he said. “I am exaggerating, but if in a family drama the father and mother fight it will be popular. And it will sell 10,000 copies more if they kill each other.”
He suggests keeping a book within one lakh words and then dividing it into 15,000 to 20,000-word acts. The first introduces the characters, the second starts the hero on heroic acts, the third turns the whole plot on its head, the fourth pushes the hero to save the situation and the final act wraps things up.
He suggests one-lakh word limit. “You may not get a publisher for anything above that, or a fewer translations will be made, since that too is pay-per-word,” said O'Yeah.
The best-selling author then explained the process of writing in different steps.
First is to create a set of characters. “It may take years to come up with them,” he said. His own Hari Majestic, a tout-turned detective in a series set in Bengaluru, came after years of being cheated by small-time cons. In Delhi, O'Yeah was promised a ticket by a stranger who he was chatting with. He said that there was a private concert by Ravi Shankar that night. “He said that it was for a small audience and not publicised,” said O'Yeah, “So I gave him a few hundreds for the ticket.” Later, it dawned on the writer that the sitar player has long been dead.
Writing can be a tedious process, particularly if one goes chronologically. So the author suggests writing the interesting bits first and later joining the dots. To flesh out the character, he said, “Give them motivation. Why do they do what they do?” Also, the more categories – villain, victim, suspects, red herrings – a subject straddles, the more interesting he/she gets.
The reader must share the experience with the hero/heroine. So imagine what is the worst that can happen to him/her. “It need not happen,” said the author, “but let the threat be present.”
Next, comes the milieu. “An Indian town is perfect since relatively few people have exploited this setting,” said O'Yeah.
If you have your place, sketch out the plot and for that, use the story-in-five-acts formulae, all wrapped up in a lakh words.
When you finally type “the end”, there are still months of rewriting ahead. “Write your novel in six months or a year, then rewrite after a month with fresh eyes, then wait another month and rewrite again. Then, give the manuscript to a trusted friend and ask them to say all the bad things,” said O'Yeah, and added with a pause, “only the bad things.”
Most writers hate being edited. But according to Mr Majestic’s creator, “It can only be good.” Sometimes, another pair of eyes can save or kill a character. Zac had once invested a lot in creating an endearing character and then, in the end, killed him/her. But editing saved the character. “My publisher said the character is too good,” said O'Yeah. So he/she was only “half-killed”.
One of the best programs available to writers is Ywriter, according to him. It allows you to divide your novel into chapters, has a library for your characters and finally you can export it into the word format of your choice. “It is a free software,” he assured.
What writers should aim for?
1. Entertainment. Make readers want to read till the end.
2. Every piece of writing should be aesthetically good.
3. There should be a point to the story.