First fact. It’s not very difficult to write.
Second fact. Thriller writing doesn’t work at all.
Third fact. Well, not just not-difficult & not-work, writing a thriller is really an enjoyable experience.
I know what you are thinking. How?
First step, if you want to become a thriller writer, you got to trust me. You do? Great! Then let me take you on a journey by the end of which you would be all set to become a good thriller writer. I know you are smiling. You are not? Well, now you are. You see, I’ve knocked away your biggest obstacle – self-doubt.
Now, a bit of background. To tell you the truth, I’ve admired thriller writers all my life. As a young school-going boy, after I had crossed the age of Tintin, Bahadur, and Mandrake comics, every time I read a thriller, I ended up marveling at the brains of writers like Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins & James Hadley Chase (those days I used to wrap books written by them in newspapers because their covers were, well, considered obscene). More than writing, I used to admire these guys for coming up with such intricate plots that involved diverse characters who lived in such exotic places. I was seventeen, in case you are wondering how could I have laid my hands on such books in the late eighties. At seventeen, I thought I was a big boy. I still think I was a big boy when I was seventeen. Anyway, now that we are talking about my being not-so-mature, let me put your doubts to rest. My dad used to help me cover these books before giving them to me to read. My mother never liked the idea of me reading novels instead of school books. Mothers… I know… I know. But the newspaper cover idea always worked. While dad was aware what I was reading, mom thought I was reading a school book because all my school books had a similar-looking newspaper cover. What is that you are asking? Does she know now? Of course she does. I’ve convinced her that without that secret pact between me and my dad I wouldn’t have succeeded in my career as a writer now.
Well, as usual, I have digressed. But no worries, because there’s a lesson in this too. Healthy digression is a must-have quality for writers. And all of us are so good at it even though we do our best to hide this. So fact number four, it’s okay to “float” when you write. This way your thoughts usually become organic and in case you discover later that some parts are sticking out like a sore thumb, just strike them through. Simple, isn’t it? That’s the power of a storyteller: create what you wish, delete what you don’t like, later. Can you feel the power?
Back to thrillers. Now that you know you can write if you trust yourself and indeed you can write whatever comes to your mind, it’s time to tackle another important thing. And that’s knowledge. None of us can do anything (not just writing) without having proper knowledge, right? So there’s no escaping this. For those of you who are now seeing the prospect of having to bury under tomes of books on crimes and criminology to enhance your knowledge and become worthy of becoming a writer, you are on wrong track. No extra knowledge is needed. Certainly not the kind you are imagining. How about trusting your own experience? Chances are, you already have eighty percent knowledge because of your experience. Let me elaborate.
Here’s fact number five. Knowing people is knowledge, having to deal with lies is knowledge, solving a problem is knowledge, coping with heart break is knowledge, following a few cases in newspapers is knowledge, reading social media updates of people is knowledge, binge drinking with friends where they talk about their secrets is knowledge, having a secret desire for that model or that actress you find so hot is knowledge. So, you see, you are already so full of knowledge. What you need is just a “top-up” plan. Like the one you get for your phone or your TV subscription.
But how to do this? Easy, let me confide in you what I do. But first, I want you to make a promise. Promise me that you will buy three of my latest books. Okay, one, if not three. And I already know that all those reading this article who are under 25 will buy three books. Others, well, I can never be sure. Age makes us different. We forget to respect and honour our gurus (don’t frown at the word guru, that’s what I’m doing here, isn’t it?). But that topic is for another day.
Back to basics as I bring to you step number two. Here’s your top-up plan. Know how the police works. Basically, their rank structure, their forensic readiness, their investigation procedures and their general daily life. How to do this? Easy, read the website of the police of your city. Read the public information pages like Wikipedia about Indian police organisations. If you spend about three hours (by clock) you would know enough. Now, supplement this by understanding the life that cops lead. Best would be to watch a video where a policeman is talking about solving a case. See him talk, understand his behaviour, see what he focusses on etc.
Next is step three. Having figured out about the police, we need to understand the criminal justice system of India. Once again, lot of it is available online. In addition, you could walk into a court one day, pay fees and hire a lawyer to understand a few cases. Lawyers don’t charge much in India and they like to talk. What better option is there than to hear from the horse’s mouth.
Now, the last part is to understand the human mind. This is step four. Reading Sigmund Freud and other psychologist’s analysis could be a good starting point. You don’t have to read their books (though you could, if you wish), just stick to their gist which can be found online. This, added to what you already know about people through your own ups and downs, would be sufficient.
Step five is to read books written by other thriller writers. This would take a major part of your time. I would recommend reading at least twenty books. Try to read thrillers written by Indian, Japanese, American, British, and Nordic writers. Get diverse perspectives to get familiar with different styles and moods that their imagery creates. On an average, it takes around 5 hours to finish a book, so do your maths.
Alright then, if you accept the above facts and take all the steps mentioned in your stride, you will be ready. My advance best wishes. My advance congratulations too. Because now, nothing can stop you from writing that super-duper thriller book you have always wanted to write. And when you do, please don’t forget to tag me and let others know that this article inspired you. In case it did.
Smile. Yes, I can see your teeth now. That’s better. You look so much better when you smile. Smile, and write that killer thriller.
Oh, I’ve got to do now, sorry. The phone’s ringing. It’s…
Oh my God!
One of the leading writers in India, Kulpreet Yadav retired voluntarily from the armed forces to pursue his passion for writing. He lives with his family in Delhi.