Every genre requires a different flavour of writing. While the story and character is always king, it doesn’t hurt to know what elements must go into a certain type of story to ensure it leaves a lasting impression on your reader. Here Sutapa discusses how the inner demons of your character makes for a superb thriller.

Keeping up with the buzz of #BlogchatterWritFest, we had the third twitter session of the season on 23rd March. We were in an hour long conversation with author and publishing consultant, Sutapa Basu (@sutapabsu20) on “How to Write a Psychological Thriller.” And all the thrill seekers and budding authors joined in to learn the know-how of writing one.

The conversation started with five questions in the first 30 minutes followed by an open session. The questions ranged from what terrifies you to discussing the challenges of writing a thriller in an Indian set-up. Each one has their own demons to face and the biggest fear for a presenter would be not to be able to engage the audience.

Essentials of a psychological thriller

Moving on with the session, we discussed the plot elements to identify 3 absolute essentials of a psychological thriller. We all resonated with Sutapa’s reply to keep the mystery, horror and suspense alive till the end. The plot should be fast paced, so as to keep readers engaged.

Sutapa Basu @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

A2.Mystery: When violence occurs before the story begins
Horror: Readers see the violence happening
Suspense: Readers anticipate that the violence will happen #BlogchatterWritFest

Sarmistha‏ @Thelittlebit90 Mar 23

A2.a)characters with several shades which gets revealed as the story progresses.
b.Unpredictable climax. A gripping suspense maintained throughout the story which leaves reader in awe even after finishing the book.#BlogchatterWritFest

Ravish Mani‏ @ravishmani Mar 23

Exactly, an anticipation is needed with all the background psychological details to keep readers hooked. #BlogchatterWritFest

Pratikshya (@pratikshyam) bought up an interesting point of whether violence is must for a psychological thriller. And the answer was most illuminating:

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

Not at all. The more violence there is, the less it will mean. A murder is not suspense. An abduction with the threat of a murder is. The scariest stories often contain very little violence.

Keeping track of twists and turns

A thriller involves taking readers through lots of twists and turns in the plot. How exactly to keep a track for it? Structured flowcharts and sticky notes can be helpful tools. This way you will not miss out on any action in the plot.

Pratikshya Mishra‏ @pratikshyam Mar 23

A3. Very difficult for me. Never wrote a thriller, let alone psychological one for that. Aspire to, though. May be putting out sticky notes and plans, to be used in the plot lines, would help. Or story board for merging of ideas. #BlogchatterWritFest

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

A3. By making a structure flow chart of the events and actions. I may deviate from it but when it is laid out, I won’t miss any action or event.#BlogchatterWritFest

Medha (@NagurMedha) had a different take on it and says that instead of keeping track of twists and turns, she would note down the timeline and major events associated with them, so as to not miss the days, months, years or even nights.

Writing in the Indian context

The next question was one of the most awaited moments of the chat, as it talked about how to write a thriller in an Indian Context. Many of us were caught unaware for this one. As Suchita (@talesOfsuchita) points out we might not even know how to begin our research: A4. For me I don’t know how the police or courts work (or don’t). And I don’t even know where to begin researching! #BlogchatterWritFest

The key to writing an Indian plot would be that the characters and settings must reflect Indian customs and traditions. Every small detail should be taken into consideration.

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

A4. Since India is a land of diverse peoples, your characters and setting must reflect specific customs or regional nuances or character stereotypes and regional language at times for authenticity. #BlogchatterWritFest

Another question that followed was how we can go beyond murder and construct a psychologically twisted story line. Sarmistha‏ (@Thelittlebit90) suggests to write about women and children exploitation taking place in various forms. Richa mentions that the plot can be hinged on one character and his/her world.

Richa S Mukherjee‏ @richashrivas Mar 23

This could be possible hinged on one character. A deep dive in to the psyche of this character and his or her world. When you can truly establish what their world is and what their mind is capable of, a deviation and the depth of it is easier to establish #BlogchatterWritFest

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

A5 Create characters with complex minds
A villain whose crime is justified
Reject a stereotype protagonist, ie police detective
Have a flawed protagonist who wins nevertheless
A steady gradual buildup to nail biting suspense #BlogchatterWritFest

With the open session, the conversation took a new turn and some interesting chatter followed. Sutapa answered all the queries with an in-depth knowledge of the subject. Sarmistha asked on how to maintain the suspense throughout the story.

Sutapa Basu ‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

Suspense builds as danger comes. Readers experience apprehension when a character they care about is in peril. This doesn’t have to be a life-and-death situation. The threat may involve the character’s physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual well being #BlogchatterWritFest

Richa put forth the question on use of regional language in the story line.

Richa S Mukherjee‏ @richashrivas Mar 23

#BlogchatterWritFest I’m so glad you brought up language. If the flavour of a story is very dependant on colloquial and regional language nunances,is there a fine line between authenticity and overuse? How liberal can the stage be?

Sutapa helps by giving an overall perspective about the language usage and one should go with the flow. But, on a cautionary note we should remember that we are writing for an English reading audience.

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

Language is the glue that keeps the entire story together. Whether it is plot or setting or character, it is the judicious use of language that brings it all. A character becomes real or is differentiated by the typical language he/she uses

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

There are no hard and fast rules about how much colloquial to use. Go with the gut feeling but remember eventually it is English language you are writing the book in. Your readers will pick it up because it is in English not Hinglish. #BlogchatterWritFest

Sutapa Basu‏ @sutapabsu20 Mar 23

The psychological thriller is a thriller narrative which emphasizes the unstable or disillusioned psychological states of its characters. … Psychological thrillers often incorporate elements of mystery, drama, action and psychological horror. #BlogchatterWritfest

How to write a psychological thriller Twitter Chat with Sutapa Basu was one of our sessions at Blogchatter Writing Festival 2018.