Posts Tagged ‘how to’

Somebody asked me the other day if writing crime fiction was significantly different from writing any other fiction. At first glance it would appear that it is not. After all, crime fiction is like telling any other story. It has to have a plot, a properly paced story graph, character development graph, conflict, resolution etc etc.

However, I think crime fiction is probably the more difficult to write because it requires the most careful crafting. You have to keep track of so many things. What actually happened? Who are the characters? What are they saying? Are they lying (duh!)? If so why? All the threads have to be tied up and all the loopholes plugged.

Then there is the question of detail. How much detail is too much detail? It is generally agreed that if your PI knows it, your readers should, too. However, it has to be given in a clever and interesting way or the readers will zone out.

It is considered bad form to hide vital information from readers and then rejoice when they fail to guess who the real killer is. One has to constantly remember that your readers will always be trying to second guess you. Therefore it is a real challenge to give out all the information and still retain suspense.

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Writing for film is an altogether different animal. I’m afraid there’s no substitute for the grind – meeting producers or trying to meet them, narrations (during which their phones will ring constantly), rejection etc.

After listening to you or pretending to, they’ll tell you that it’s all very well, but can you develop an idea that they have?’ You have no choice but to comply. And even after that they may reject your work. Else they may not even meet you again.

Also, no one will ever tell you NO straight off. In this industry, people are so insecure and no one knows when someone will make it big that they are mortally afraid of rubbing anyone off the wrong way. Instead, they will devise inventive ways to fob you off – I’ve been away on a shoot (never mind that the guy hasn’t made a film in years), I got caught up in other things etc.

What makes the scene more complicated is the fact that most film people – producers, directors and even actors, are notoriously disorganized. So you will never know if the guy (let’s face it, it’s a man’s world) is trying to avoid you or is genuinely busy.

There’s nothing for it, you’ll just have to rely on studying body language. And you’ll have to be good at it. Most film people are practiced phonies and lie with consummate ease.

And even when you get a producer interested in your script, the onus of putting the project together will be on you. So you’ll have to run around trying to get a director, actors’ assent and the entire cycle of narrations and actors trying to fob you off will begin again.

Getting a director isn’t easy. Most directors have their own ideas and scripts which they are trying to get produced that they aren’t interested in yours. Getting stars is even more difficult.

So, as you can see, getting your script turned into a production is an uphill task and it could be years (if ever) when that happens.

Instead, what most writers and directors do is get actors’ assent (meaning dates) first and then go to producers. If you have a commercially viable star cast, getting finances and even producers is a piece of cake.

Then again, there are so few stars and they are so busy, that even with the project all together and ready to roll in an instant, you may still have to wait years before beginning photography.


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How to write a Novel

I have had a successful writing attempt…so naturally people ask me how I write stories. Mostly I just follow my instincts. For instance I take care to address those issues which leave me feeling cheated in other people’s works. 

But these questions led me to wonder whether there are any rules for writing, especially mystery / suspense. By rules I mean apart from the usual stuff you get on how to build a character, how to plot a novel etc.

In this respect I came across an interesting post by a net friend:

Vonnegut gives some excellent rules of writing a short story in his book, “Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction”. Of course, the rules are unconventional, but if anyone knows a thing or two about writing it’s Vonnegut. and I thought I’d share them, so here they are:
1.Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2.Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3.Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4.Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5.Start as close to the end as possible.
6.Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7.Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8.Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

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One of the most important features of a script is the dialogue. Also the most tricky. Often times writers meander around for ages before stumbling upon the right formula.

So how does one go about writing dialogue? The answer to that is to keep it as realistic as possible. But in reallife life we do a lot of ums and ahhs, we leave our sentences half-finsihed, we jump from topic to topic. If we do this in our script, we’ll leave our viewers confused. So we have to carefully craft our dialogue and make it look like it’s natural, like it just rolled of our character’s tongue. Not practiced at all.

And there is no option but to just jump right in. To be sure, your first few pages/chapters will be stilted and awkward. Most likely they will make you cringe. But you will discover your flow if you keep at it. You will get to know your characters better an things will go on reltaively more smoothly. Then go back and rewrite the first few pages/chapters.

That’s what I did for Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions. That’s what I do for my scripts. That’s what everybody does, no matter how accomplished.

Some tips for writing good dialogue:

1. Have as little of it as possible. If you can the same thing in a four word senetence as in a five word one, choose the former.

2. Avoid saying the obvious. You’re script will only become unwieldy. For example, if a woman is shown crying her eyes out, don’t get her to say I’m sad. You can give her a dialogue if the reason for her crying is the opposite. Or, is she wants to hide the fact that she’s crying. So she could say, while wiping her eyes, “I’m not crying,” or “it’s tears of happiness.” Or whatever.

3. Try and prolong the tension in a scene by getting your characters to not give direct response to questions. When asked, “Do you love me?” Get the heroine to talk about anything else (keep it short). Keep the hero as well as the audience guessing.

Also be prepared to do several rewrites. Like everything else, dialogue sparkles the more you polish it.

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I’ve finally had a break through! I’ve been grappling with the plot of my second novel for the past one week and nothing worthwhile was coming out. There were all these bits of paper strewn about some covered in ink from top to bottom (one of my good days) and some with barely a line written on them (one of the not so good ones). I don’t know about you but I find writing on paper easier when I’m outlining my novels/screenplays. Basically paper works best for me when I’m clearing out my head.

Anyway, frustration was creeping and I had begun scratching on walls.

And finally, yesterday things fell into place. I’m really excited about the story and cannot wait to begin to plunge myself in writing it. There are still some snags and loose ends but I’m sure those will also work themselves out once I start writing and getting into my characters heads – their motivations, deep dark secrets, insecurities etc. Right now they are still just outlines on paper.

When you are writing a murder mystery, there are many things you have to consider. You have to answer at least four basic questions before you can even begin writing. The questions are – What, Who, Why, How. The reason is simple – you have to start seeding it right from the beginning. Even if the crime does not take place right away (though it should, but more on that later), the characters’ actions and whereabouts have to detailed.

Once you have answered what, who, why and how, the rest of the work is relatively easier. You can embellish it with other characters, other prime suspects and their motivations, alibis and red herrings.  It is usually the former that takes much of your time, partly because detective/crime fiction has evolved over the years and every conceivable plot has been done.

So there’s pressure to come up with something novel (read: convoluted plots) without resorting to murdering evil twins, butlers and monkeys/snakes. Also while we are at it other big no-nos are strangers, burglars and the detective himself/herself unless you can come up with an intriguing way of handling it. Impossible, usually. Jeffrey Archer has done it nicely in one of his short stories (it’s about a courtroom drama around a crime of passion. I forget the name of the story and the anthology.).

How I envy Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. Those were simpler times.

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