It is never too late to listen to your heart. But for some, life is too short to wait. Here is Zac O’Yeah, who “retired” (that is how he puts it) from his career as a theatre artist merely at the age of 25. Zac conducted a workshop at BLF 2015 where he gave his insights and thoughts related to writing thrillers.

The most important prerequisite to writing in general is reading. “Read a lot. It helps you analyse yourself as well as the author, hence you can avoid mistakes while writing your own story. One needs to read much more than he writes,” said O’Yeah who has authored books like ‘Mr.Majestic’ and ‘Hari’.

Citing examples from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Classical Greek drama, O’Yeah stated that all great fiction is tragedy, as sad as it may sound. It has to have a tragic element in it. Popular fiction is tragedy with a happy end. Conflict is the basis of every great story which needs to be told in a book. Somebody has to be seriously unhappy in your book for it to work. “Tragedy is not the most essential element, but you will sell 10000 copies more if you put it as an element in your book,” he said candidly.

Zac’s idea of an effective thriller involves suspense, action, proactive characters and an explanation in the end.  In an effective story, suspense is not on the page of the book. It happens in the reader’s mind. How do we achieve that effectiveness? Well, there is no rocket science involved behind it. It works for different people in different ways. As for Raymond Chandler said, “when a story slows down, send in a man with a gun.” So, as an author, you’ve got to try any trick which is in the book along with the ones which are not to make a reader invest their emotions into your book.

On building an effective plot for a crime novel, Zac agreed that it is difficult to envision the whole scenario but he tried to bring it down to a few basic elements that ought to be there. These include a ‘misdeed’ to begin with, which allows the hero to be heroic. Misdeed should be followed by a lengthy investigation which would end with a solution and explanations to the series of events that have occurred during the whole story. Laying emphasis on characters, Zac mentioned that in every crime story, characters must include victims, witnesses, suspects, red herrings, criminal(s) and investigator(s).

“The story that you are telling is like a lifetime. It is a journey from one point to another but not through a straight line. There have to be elements which bring different wavelengths and amplitudes to the story at different points. That is typical for a thriller. If there is a magic in story writing which I am sure there is, no one can ever reduce it to a level of recipe that it can be passed on from one person to another,” said O’Yeah while summing up the session.

By Shubham Sardana