I have been asked this question often enough. How do you write? Do you plan your scenes? Like, every last detail of it before you sit down to write?

I know that there are several authors who do that. Plan everything down in an excel sheet. I have heard that the most successful of authors, JK Rowling does that. Maybe Kalidasa or Valmiki or Veda Vyasa did that as well. I don’t know. But that just doesn’t work for me.

So, how do I write, you ask?

Let’s start off with the story itself. I mostly have only the broad contours of the hazy outlines of the story in mind. Ok, maybe a little bit more than that. I do know how the story is going to end. But other than that, not much more. I know maybe two or three characters in the story. The main characters that is. I have no idea who the other characters are, what their characteristics would be, how they would look or feel.

What I do, is start a chapter and break it up into scenes. Now, I have realised that I can write really fast that way. A chapter for me is about 2500 words. Five scenes of 500 words each will get me there. 35 chapters or so will get me to the end of a book.

Once I start a scene, I have learnt to write a little note to the side, where I specify who the Point of View (PoV) character is, for that scene. I have learnt to do this over six books. I didn’t always use to do that until I learnt this trick from repeated discussions with Prof. Otis Haschemeyer.

Right. Chapter started. First scene. I put down the name of the scene as a sentence. What happens in the scene? Say, this particular scene is about a man riding a horse through a forest and he is being set upon by bandits and he fights them off. This is where my strength of visualization comes in. Even now, when I wrote that previous sentence, I could immediately visualize the man on his horse, riding through a path in the jungle. The sun-dappled forest, the chirping birds, the chiyikking monkeys, the trumpeting of elephants. The horse stepping through the mud, puddles of water due to overnight rain. I can see all of this. It plays like a video in front of my eyes. It is a trance-like feeling for me, where I am in my own movie. As the character whose PoV I am writing. A 3D effect like no other.

Then, all I need to do, is find words to describe what I am seeing in front of my eyes. And that’s all I do. A scene done, I move to the next one and so on and so forth.

What about the characters then, you ask. I can’t really explain it, but the characters are also there as part of the “video” that my mind sees and I just transcribe them. Take this scene from Nandi’s Charge, for example,

When I started writing this scene, the character Muthuvel, was on his way to board a ship. So far so good. So then as the “video” played in front of my eyes, I could see the inevitable queue forming to board the ship. What else would there be? Some street dogs maybe? Now, someone would have to play with them. A little kid perhaps? But what little kid? If it was just some random little kid, there would be no point in introducing him into the story. So the kid had to accompany Muthuvel on the ship. Which means he was in the queue as well.

That’s how it started. When I introduced Sadaiyan, I had no idea about the critical role that he would play in the novel. It was a character that just occurred to me as I was writing this scene. And then, over time, his character and role, grew, until, he became a pivotal character in the novel.

So now you know my secret. Fairly simple, isn’t it? Now go ahead, and start watching your own “videos” in your mind and put them down on paper!

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