As an avid admirer of Agatha Christie’s whodunits and Dan Brown’s Mystery Thrillers, i just couldn’t stop myself from writing/plotting some sort of small mystery stories myself, well afterall-all a great mystery takes is a sinister antagonist and a bunch of well plotted clues along the way, i thought.

Turns out, that isn’t the case really.

Having Loved Every movie Nolan made, I always had this urge(or pledge) to make my mysteries as original, taut and Unique as i could, well as it happens, none of my stories (that i wrote) had something i didn’t see previously through movies or other books. Be it the way characters played out, or the plot being blatantly copied (unintentionally but subconsciously influencing). Yeah i reached the stage what you call a “writer’s block” even before completing the first page. The characters i wrote would either be too cliche or just too offputting to the reader.

In all honesty, i thought a guy who’s pulling off an all-nighter at a bar would write better than i ever could. My main issues with the character (and thus the plot itself) would arise with the lack of intent every character would have.

Well, let me explain a bit more practically…

In my murder mystery stories, i often found my characters’ intents to be lackluster. Like why would the piano player be the murderer? Would a lack of salary force him to commit this heinous crime of killing her boss? (I bet you’re laughing reading this absurd thing, coz I’m as well as I’m writing this) Or say, why wouldn’t anyone else have a motive to kill the old grudgy granny?

Characters with motives

Such things always put me off and i could not get any “unique” way to approach a story, However i could borrow some famous plot devices or “methods” to make my characters more solid and less Clumsy but, to me that felt like i was being unoriginal. Here’s what i learnt : Most of the times, while writing any story of any genre, never think that your story HAS to be original, because even if you want it to, you’ll still end up following the norms and mainstream-used-plot devices. So it’s okay to borrow or follow a previously used notion, all you have to do is add your own flavor- tweak the story a bit or change some characters’ trait while retaining others. Play fast and loose with your first draft, make it as outlandish as you could if it helps you expand your story and get rid of writer’s block, or just make the story as simple as you could and then tweak it by changing the way you structure it. All these liberties ACTAULLY help a lot and solve quite a bit of issues.

Memento Vs Ghajini

For an example, if you’ve seen christopher Nolan’s Memento, You’d know how complicated the movie gets as it progresses ahead. There’s so much which makes the story feel so immersive and intriguing, some of which being the way the movie is structured (like i mentioned above how you should tweak the structure) the movie is told in black & White and Colour imaginary to differentiate Past and present respectively and it works SO WELL. What adds more to the suspense and mystery is the way it is told, in reverse chronological order which just makes it more complex and mystical.

Now compare this to the poorly made indian adaption : Ghajini, the movie was very identical to memento, blatantly borrowing the “15 min Short term memory” concept, they could only copy that, sure the way the cinematography is done you can tell that it’s copied from Memento’s scenes but what they didnt copy was the main story, They just took the premise of protagonist’s wife getting murdered, and him finding the killers. After this, Ghajini starts diverting a lot from the original : Ghajini starts out as a romantic thriller which becomes a revenge drama halfway through and still retains moments of emotional subplots (not sure if it worked at all lol) while Memento is from start to finish is a mystery thriller that keeps you guessing till the very end. Like i said gajhni-while borrowing heavily from memento manages to distance itself from the original and stand out on it’s own – Which is my point exactly… Adding your own flavor to an already used notion – It is perfectly fine.

These small liberties help you write big things without having to worry about “being unoriginal.” This same logic applies to plot twists in mysteries/thrillers – there are hardly anything original left to be told so it is okay to use the ones you’ve seen in movies as long as it enhances the story. (That’s not to say that you shouldn’t/can’t come up with anything original- you can, if it works for you then great but if it doesn’t like most of us then it’s okay to borrow some notion)

Another thing to keep in mind while writing anything is to always have some solid reasons behind any character’s decisions : Be it the main character or any sidekick, there has to be a plausible explanation behind every step they take. To get this done, what I’ve seen works the best for me is providing Either a solid backstory or false plot devices (to deceive the readers.)

To sum it up, what I’ve learnt is, write your first draft as outlandishly as you can without worrying about the loose ends. Once you cover the basic plotline within which your story revolves, you can always trim out the nonsensical part and replace with more grounded details. It is better to write a complete plot first, rather than forcing the perfection from the start itself.

With all said and done, I’ve made some good progress with a crime-thriller I’ve been writing for the last 2 months. Sure, it still requires a hefty amount of polishing and quite a bit trimming but it still gives me good hope that it could very well be my first “decent-if-not- great-thriller”!!

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