Of murders and unpredictable twists: Ravi Subramanian on thriller writing



A look at the top 10 highest-selling “Crime, Thriller and Mystery” writers on Amazon India introduces us to the likes of Agatha Christie, Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon and James Patterson. The only two Indian writers in the list are Ashwin Sanghi and Ravi Subramanian.


While a larger chunk of Sanghi’s works draws upon Indian mythology and targets readers who also read the likes of Amish Tripathi and Devdutt Patnaik, Ravi Subramanian is perhaps the only true practitioner of the art in the Indian “Crime, Thriller and Mystery” space.


A banker by profession, Subramanian has written popular thrillers about banking and bankers, including an award-winning trilogy — “The Incredible Banker”, “The Bankster” and “Bankerupt” — and is now back with a fast-paced novel, “In the Name of God” (Penguin/ Rs 299/ 405 Pages).


So what are the rules for a successful thriller?


“Have a murder in the first page of the book. It always hooks the reader. Ask a question at the end of the first chapter. Do not reveal too much in the mid-chapters but build on your characters to keep the interest of the reader intact, and end with a powerful twist,” was the author’s answer during an interview at the IANS office here.


“I can come and kill you but that is not enough. What if after stabbing you I begin to twist and turn the dagger inside your body? It is the final twist which makes a thriller — ‘Oh damn! What a book’.”


Subramanian also believes that a thriller is an overall experience. A reader would not want to finish it in 20 days; he wants to read it now and would be happy to finish more chapters in a day.


“So we keep the chapters very short. The reason for that is most people read books before going to sleep and normally they tend to think that I will sleep after finishing a chapter; if you are able to end that chapter on a high note and raise the curiosity of the reader, he is going to turn the pages and see that the next chapter is only three-pages long. And so the pages turn by themselves; without realising it, the reader is almost through 200 pages,” he added.


Subramanian clearly practices what he preaches — there are a whopping 121 chapters in the 400 pages of his latest novel.


On the process of writing, Subramanian said It is a matter of deciding the subject of the book; once he has decided on that, the intuitive writer takes over without a set plot in mind. The plot gradually builds up as more and more chapters keep coming.


“In this book, for instance, even when I had finished 90 per cent of it, I had no idea who the villain was going to be,” Subramanian revealed. While this surely lends a layer of unpredictability to the plot of the novel, isn’t it a painful task for the writer?


“Of course it is, but it is an advantage nonetheless,” he opined. “It’s painful because you often have to go back and rewrite a lot of stuff as, when I ultimately decide the villain of the novel, I may have to change something somewhere earlier in the novel. The advantage is that if I do not know who the killer is, there is no way that the reader will have the slightest idea about it.”

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