Abir Mukherjee shares tips and tricks about writing crime fiction

Shachi Lavingia
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Abir Mukherjee, author

Abir Mukherjee talks to us about crime writing, his writing process, and key points he keeps in mind while writing crime fiction.

As much as I love reading about the wizarding world in Great Britain and one woman's journey of finding herself, I love reading crime fiction, especially when it's written by an Indian author. Meet Abir Mukherjee, a writer based in Bangalore. He's an IT professional who has written two books so far, The Sinful Silence and Sin is the new love.

For Abir Mukherjee, crime writing is all about creating puzzles. The crime at the center, which drives different characters of the story, remains wrapped under sundry layers of subplots. As the story progress, those layers peel off gradually in a dramatic and intriguing flow of storytelling. He says, "I always start building my stories with a simple tale or concept. In the process of developing it further, I keep adding layers till that simple tale at the center is completely covered. I make these layers up mostly by adding different shades and perspectives of the characters."

We spoke to Abir about what crime writing looks like, how close it is to fiction and so much more. Here's what he had to say!

"While researching to build the crime scene, geography and time are the most important scales to keep in mind. Investigation procedures, and characters too. Which is a reality in America, maybe a chimera in India and vice versa. For example, the first polygraph was created in 1921. Now, if a story depicts the period, which is prior to 1921, mentioning a lie detector test would be stupid. So, the research should be in sync with the geography and time scales of the story."

He also mentioned that writing and consuming crime-based content affects one's mental health too. He added, "Because the criminal or the antagonist, or the villain is the nucleus of crime fiction an a smart, intelligent, and wired villain always enhances the complexity of a story, making it captivating to the readers. While creating and researching a heinous character as such, sometimes, we have to put ourselves into the character’s shoes. At the end of the day, whether you're a writer or a reader, you must take it as fiction and consume it for entertainment purposes only. After all, a certain level of maturity is a prerequisite for reading or watching such content."

How close is crime fiction to reality is something all of us wonder. Abir says, "While this depends on the writer and the story, I always try my best to keep it as real as possible. Only rigorous research can help a writer make realistic crime fiction. I draw inspiration mostly from real-life incidents. Sometimes, from other fiction books, movies, and web series as well."

How should one go about with developing crime fiction, you ask? Here's what he said, "We need to do the necessary research for the plot and not rely on the concepts that we see on fictional TV shows or movies. The slightest deviation from reality can push picky readers away and redundant and unnecessary information is the easiest way to lose interest in crime fiction. It's so important to make sure that the information doesn’t stagnant the flow of the story. Every story also needs a protagonist. Make sure that your protagonist is as flawed as most of us are, vulnerable in tough circumstances, and sometimes jeopardizes it all by mistake as we do in reality. Also, equip your villain with a logical background that justifies their actions."

Abir Mukherjee also left tips for young crime fiction writers.

"Don’t drag on about your characters or the ambiance at the beginning of your story. Give it an igniting start with sharp dialogues, flashy actions, and fateful consequences. You might need to jumble the sequence of scenes, bringing a much-later planned scene at the front. The easiest mistake is having a prologue. It feels like a good idea, to create a bit of backstory or a setup so that when the ‘real’ story kicks off, your reader knows why things are happening the way they are. But why make them wait?"

"Plot twists are the most important ingredients for an interesting thriller. But you shouldn’t make a twist that is out of context with respect to the words inside your story or the characters. Twists are to be in sync with the rules and boundaries, you have set in your story for the characters. Play a mind game with your readers, making them thrive through the story in search of answers. Don't unveil the mystery completely but don't hide them entirely either. Keep leaking the secrets of your characters and plot throughout the story; evenly distributing in each chapter."

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