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A thriller and a good joke have a lot in common


A good crime thriller is like telling a good joke. The punchline is always there, but we don’t see it,” British author Clare Mackintosh told a rapt audience at a Times Litfest session on ‘Whodunit: The craze for thrillers’.

Mackintosh feels timing is crucial. “A joke, a good magic trick and a gripping thriller has only one thing in common – good timing. It is always there in front of us, but we miss it. And then when the revelation happens, we are like, ‘Ah I knew it’. But at the same time, the reader or the listener is blown away by it,” says the author of Hostage.

While discussing the importance of plot in a thriller, Bilal Siddiqi, author of Bard of Blood, says that he plans the ending before he starts writing a book. “So, whatever I do in between, it should bring me to that end,” says the 27-year-old.

Mackintosh, however, disagrees. “That might be the case with screenwriters but in the case of novelists, it’s two camps. Some plan their ending before and others don’t,” says the reallife cop-turned author.

Panelist Kjell Ola Dahl agrees with Mackintosh and says that he too goes back and forth for a proper ending. “I search a lot of directions and try new things. I have planned earlier but then I don’t feel the tension of my characters and the closeness to the story if I do so,” the Norwegian author says.

Dahl adds that he likes to compose a story like a mystery. “I am more interested in the characters and how they relate to society. When I write a book, I try to understand why a crime is committed. In most cases, society is involved,” he says.

Siddiqi says that it is always a plus to have a mentor who can guide you. “It is extremely important to have a mentor who knows the craft well,” says the author of Bard of Blood, which was turned into a Netflix series.

Mackintosh says that her earlier profession helped her a lot while writing crime fiction. “I was a cop for 12 years and have observed people from all walks of life. We all have the potential to crossover from the good to bad and vice versa. And that area is a rich territory for any writer, particularly crime writers,” says the author who loves writing high-octane thrillers.



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