Monday, March 31, 2014

The Three Sure-Shot ways of writing a Blockbuster Novel!!

Over the last one year, I've read over Eighty novels according to GoodReads (The Widget you see on your right here on this blog); and that sort of qualifies me to become a writer critic! And more importantly, it cracks open the formula to writing *blockbusters*. These books may be good or not, but they're sure to become successful - like many of our formula films which make their producers insanely rich!

There may be a Part II to this post, but for now, here are 3 formulae which make up probably 70-80% of all novels that get written!

1. A single fact

Michael Crichton wrote a novel called 'State of Fear', which I remember reading several years ago. I also remember writing a review of it, but can't seem to find it on my blog now, but anyway, the theme is that Global Warming is a myth, and that we are actually on our way into an ice age!! This single assumed 'fact' has thousands of publications in its support, and that led Crichton to craft a story around the concept.
The problem with writing a novel based on a single fact is that the writer will naturally want to lead his readers to agree with him, and for that to happen, there's quite a bit of lecturing and proof-showing that needs to be done. Through the protagonist, the author takes us deep into the world of climate research, and actually has printed several research findings as parts of the book!
The Da Vinci Code takes pretty much that route. The simple fact of having found a code embedded within Da Vinci's work was the crux of writing the book, and to his credit, the writer manages to craft a story with well-developed characters. While writing Inferno - again with a single-line plot - the writer hasn't been as lucky!
Several authors take that route quite regularly, and because they're based on some semblance of truth, they manage to become talking points - leading to almost-certain commercial success.

2. Make it dark

Contrary to public opinion, books that are all goody and happy don't sell all that much. They get relegated to afternoon reading sessions in rural regions. The real money is in the books which are dark. Psychological problems, Crime driven by poverty, Lunacy, Death of loved ones, Drug-addled violence, it is all in the open in our novels. And they sell. Authors like James Patterson have made a regular factory of these novels - I think he writes one every week or something! And each of them goes on to become a bestseller and reaps profits for the publishers. 
As if dark wasn't enough, there are now 50 Shades of Grey as well! 
In the guise of 'reality', authors can push in as much muck as they want into their pages. One would imagine the world is already at an advanced stage of cancer if all that is written in these novels were true :) Characters get killed suddenly, so that there is a continuation of the series. Children get to be kidnapped, tortured, ah! what not. The darker it is, the better it sells.
No wonder it is an awesome time to be the Bad Guy in our stories. They get to do things which normal people can't even talk about, bowing to societal pressure! Loads of creative evilness in the offings! The same continues in our movies, and that takes us on to Formula 3

3. Write a Movie

Here's a tweet first - 
There are tons of Chetan Bhagat trolls on Twitter, but to give credit where it is due, it doesn't take more than falling down the stairs and its experiences afterward that are needed to craft a Bhagat novel ;)
And since it is based on events, visualizing it into a movie becomes easy, which nowadays runs in the mind of our writers right from the day they begin writing their book. 
Why only Bhagat? There are dozens of writers who write with a movie in mind. Cinema fans can accurately predict what's going to come next in the book (if they read it, that is), because its a potboiler on paper! No wonder many of these books indeed get chosen to be made into films, and surprise - the writers get onto the set as screenplay consultants or get co-credited as writers along with the dialogue folks. The best of two worlds, really. 

Like I mentioned in the beginning of this article, there could be a part II of this book - but that'll probably take time, as most of the novels I lay my hands on have been falling into these three formulae alone :) Or could just be that my book selection is quite rotten! So if you're a wannabe writer, work hard just for your first book, because it won't otherwise be accepted by the good publishing houses. After you have a decent book on your hands, you can just choose a formula from above, and be on your way onto the Jaipur Lit Fest stage :)

1 comment:

Vikram Venkateswaran said...

If it is a blockbuster formula, there is always the impending danger of Part II! ;)