Category Archives: Tips and Suggestions

Writing Advice: How to create a relatable antagonist?

When writing fiction, we writers always want to create believable characters that we possibly can. But have you ever fallen into the trap of focusing so much on protagonist that you forget to flesh out your antagonist well? At best, the antagonist turns out to be total bad-ass, who is all dark and has no shred of goodness in him/her.

But we all know from our our time on Planet Earth that people are complicated. They are driven by different motivations. What you do might not seem right to me, but you might have a perfect explanation for why you do what you do. In my previous post, I talked about how being empathetic to all the characters in your story is crucial to prevent the story becoming a flat, biased narrative of a single person.

Today, I’d like to share with you a wonderful article that talks about why not making your antagonists pure evil is important. The article is written by K.M. Weiland, an author and a blogger. I love the writing questions that she shares on her Facebook page. Her questions make me ponder more about my Works in Progress and look for the nuances that can make stories and characters for complex. If you are looking for good writing advice, be sure to follow K.M. on her Facebook page.

P.S: As I celebrate one year of publishing Bound by Life, I shall be answering questions related to writing and publishing in June this year. I have learnt a thing or two about the writing/publishing industry in the past year and would love to be able to help you all out if I’m able to. So if you have any questions, feel free to email me at

How revisiting your old writings can help you grow as an author?

Dear Readers,

One June 20, I celebrate the first anniversary of publishing Bound by Life, my first ebook.

Normally, I do not revisit anything I have written unless I am editing. After I had published the book, I had kept it aside in a folder on my desktop, never bothering to read it again. When my roommate was reading it, she mentioned bits and pieces of the stories, telling me about which parts she liked. I felt a growing curiosity to revisit the stories. But I was certain I had done a below average work and did not want to upset myself with that kind of work. We writers are just so skilled at underestimating ourselves!

But a few days ago, quite late in the night, I felt a sudden urge to read one of the stories in Bound by Life. It was the title story.

Reading it for the first time in months, I realized how nuanced it was. The epistolary format attracted me always, and I felt it worked perfectly for this story. It struck me how the old man weaved the tale of his past with his present life. I especially liked how Sacred Heart, the home where the old man finally leaves for, becomes a character itself in the story – it is as if it has a personality of its own, like a haunted house.

That does not mean the story or the story-telling seemed perfect to me. I kept wondering if the voice of the old man was genuine enough. How did I want to portray him when I was writing the story? Did I want him to sound guilty because he had not cared for his son in a better way? Or did I want him to sound complaining, scathing his daughter-in-law? I do not remember the reasons exactly now. But one thing I know: through Bound by Life I had merely wanted to show how old men and women are mistreated by their children in the old age. My sympathies lay with the old man in the story and not the son or the daughter-in-law. Did I ever put myself in the shoes of the son/daughter-in-law and try to imagine what it might be to live with a grumpy old man like that?

That is what made me suspicious of the old man’s voice in the letter-story. If he were really apologetic, would he really write in such harsh manner, knowing that it might be his last communique with his son? Maybe, or may be not. For human nature is a mysterious thing, and it takes a lot of understanding to portray it accurately. But in some ways, at that point, I felt that the old man was merely a child in a big man’s clothes – not understanding, not sympathetic to anyone but himself. Even in his last days he was a selfish man.

Re-reading this story taught me a great lesson: a writer must think all his characters through – their inter dependencies, their emotional balances, before fleshing out a character. Because in the end you are striving to recreate reality, and the onus lies on you to be authentic and unbiased. In spite of how much pain motivates you to write a given story and feel sympathetic to the protagonist, all the supporting characters are as important. Once you have written them out, they cease to exist on paper. They live on in the readers, and the author must bear responsibility for that.

Have you ever revisited a character that you written a long time back and felt differently about his/her motivations? Share your thoughts with me in the Comments below.


A lot of you have been asking me questions on writing/magazines to send your writings to on my Facebook page and this blog. This June, as I revisit Bound by Life, I have decided to answer questions on Bound by Life, self-publishing, indie publishing and on writing in general. I would love to share whatever I have learned as far as writing is concerned with all of you. So this May, compile all your questions and email them to me at Depending on the number of questions I get, I will be publishing a series of posts in June. Look forward to hearing from you!



20 Places to Submit Creative Writing in India

Knowing that my previous post, Five magazines to submit fiction (and/or non-fiction) in India has been of help to some  of my readers, I thought I’d post one more with an updated list. But my work was made easier as I found a ready-made list on Facebook few days back. I would like all you Indian writers out there to check it out!

20 Places to Submit Creative Writing in India

This list contains few of the magazines that I had listed in my earlier post as well. IN the past, I have heard from a lot of you who submitted their writings to the magazines I mentioned in the post and got themselves published. I would love to hear more of these stories from you. So, keep those fingers busy typing and sending your works to more and more magazines!



Empathy Maps in Creative Writing: How to create believable characters?

So, today I did something new at work. I created an Empathy Map for a potential client. What is an Empathy Map, you’re wondering? I’ll explain it to you in a moment. Please have a look at the cute diagram below:


Empathy Maps are often used in business to understand the motivations of a potential client. It is like prepping yourself before asking out the girl/guy you have been swooning over for a long time. You want to know who they are, what they like and how you can impress them. You are the one with the merchandise, they are the buyers. You want to wrap your goods in the shiniest wrapper, before presenting it to your customer.

So what you do is you create an empathy map. You want to get into the head of the person you’re trying to impress. How? Well, you draw up something like in the figure above and fill the white portions with the following pointers:

  1. What does the prospective client/boyfriend/girlfriend, let’s call him/her X, think or feel?
  2. What do they hear? What do you hear about X from others?
  3. What does X see? What might X see in you?
  4. What does X usually say or do? Do you have any idea what a typical day in X’s life look like?
  5. What are the pain points in X’s life?
  6. What is X trying to gain in life?

To do this exercise to its maximum benefit, you must put yourself in X’s shoes and see/think/feel as X does. And hence, this map is called an empathy map.

empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another
While doing this exercise at office today, a sudden idea came to my mind. What if I created an empathy map for each of the characters in my works-in-progress?
For us authors,understanding our characters is of utmost importance. Maybe, you hate your antagonist, but have you ever put yourself into the shoes of your antagonist and tried to understand why he is the way he is? We talk about POVs often while writing a book, but do we bother to understand the POVs of each character that we create?
Let’s think of every character as a prospective client, and try to feel/see the world as they see. Maybe then we can create that life-like character that we had been trying to create, and not merely caricatures?
 Have you ever used an Empathy Map before? If yes, how has it helped you? If not, do you think an Empathy Map might help you any manner? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this!
Until next time, Sayounara!

Of Showing and Telling

Recently, I read an interesting post on examples of bad sentences in classic literature. The book in focus was Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Though I do not agree entirely with the author’s views, I do believe that the article is a brave attempt in deconstructing the classics in today’s perspective, specifically, along the lines of ‘Show, not tell’.

I have no formal training in creative writing, but I am no stranger to ‘Show, not tell’. Once upon a time I was quite active at and have myself given that advice to many newbie authors. Often those stories were under a thousand words and would benefit greatly if showing elaborated the content.

As far as a novel is concerned, however, I believe that there must be a good mix of showing as well as telling. Too much showing will unnecessarily increase the length. To prove my point, I will quote a portion from the above-mentioned article:

The gentlemen pronounced him (Mr. Darcy) to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding countenance, and being unworthy to be compared to his friend.


1.  Massive Run-on- Six independent clauses with two dependent clauses.  A decent writer could get at least three sentences out of that (my writing instructors would say).

2.  “…his manners gave a disgust…” –What did Mr. Darcy do?  Fart loudly?  Chew with his mouth open?  I want to know what Mr. Darcy did to offend everybody, especially if it involved farting loudly.

Let us focus on the second point. If we judge the author’s claims in context of the single sentence stated from the book, then the author is spot on in his analysis. If, however, we judge the sentence in context of the entire book, then the analysis will differ. Throughout a good portion of Pride and Prejudice we find ample examples which clearly expound Mr. Darcy’s airs that displease everyone. Can we not, then, forgive a little telling?

I have written a book of short stories and have somewhat grasped the extent to which showing can be applied. Many a time, while I was writing the stories in Bound by Life, I was so engrossed in showing the scenes that I lost interest in carrying the plot on. Too much showing tended to slow my writing.

If we are to write as well as the authors we admire, perhaps we need to pay less heed to what the rule book of modern fiction-writing states. As beginners, these rules merely limit our writing ability to flow freely.

Have you ever struggled with ‘Show, not tell’? If yes, how did you overcome it? Don’t forget to share your thoughts with me through the comments below.

Write me           aGuest Post

For Saturday Specials in July, I am looking for your thoughts on classic literature. Last week we had Mr. Gangopadhyay share his thoughts on the classic American novella, The Old Man and the Sea. This Saturday Belinda will share her review of To Kill a Mockingbird (instead of Madame Bovary, as mentioned last week). If you want your review of a classic novel featured on Scribbles@Arpita, contact me with your name, email, website and the name of the book you wish to review using the form given below. Only two more spots are left, so hurry!