These days, I am surrounded by writers. Though I have been associated with the media since 1996, where every third person I interact with has been a writer; my acquaintances have largely been limited to business journalists and news reporters. Business writing or mainstream journalism, I believe, is not a creative medium at all.
However being a part of the support team for Bangalore Writers Workshop brought me close to the founders, two very lovely women – Bhumika Anand and Rheaa Mukherjee. Both the ladies are very gifted writers, and would be published authors very soon.
Back home, my daughter Ammu who’s all of six years has also expressed her desire to be a writer. She has in fact written four stories so far, all about snakes, monkeys, lions, tigers, and princesses. She is a very determined writer, extremely choosy about her subjects, and literally spends hours finalising names of her principal characters. She tells me that when she grows up, she will be a writer. I cannot be a prouder parent.
And like all writers before her, and surely many after her, she is presently going through a writer’s block.
Meanwhile, Bhumika had shared some of her yet-to-be published stories and asked my humble opinion on her works. I must confess, that I played a hard critic which did not go well with her. Of course, my only motive was to get her to write better. Bhumika is a very gifted writer, with several admirers for the blog she keeps, where she discusses mostly her own life, relationships, her health issues, matters of her heart, and her views on humankind. Though her stories are also heavily inspired from her own ecosystem, I found them to be a bit underwhelming. I was surprised since I am an ardent fan of the blog, which has similar roots.
Our correspondence triggered a few discussions on literature and the craft of writing. And, in turn, has resulted in this blog post.
What makes a story/novel/cinema/creation impressive, interesting, and exciting?
To a large extent it would depend on the readers, viewers or the audience; and their tastes. It’s how they gauge, and what kind of an impact it creates on them that counts.
Sometimes we write, create, and perform for ourselves. In fact 99% do just that. That’s why we have bathroom singers, thespians after a few pegs, and writers who keep secret diaries.
But if your creations need a larger audience, you need to deliver something special. For brevity’s sake, let’s limit this discussion to writing, and not music or other performing arts. We’ll also simplify every kind of creative writing to stories.
I feel from a plot perspective, there are just four kind of story frameworks. The framework has a few elements extra depending on the audience.
An extraordinary experience in an ordinary person’s life
This is the most common theme of all popular narratives. The protagonist is someone whom a reader can relate to easily. He/She witnesses a murder, or gets raped, or gets caught in a racket or meets a ghost, or ends up being a hero. Since it’s a shift from the protagonist’s normal day-to-day life, it makes an interesting tale to tell. The reader should be able to get into your story, and connect with a central character, and go through the experiences of the central character.
If you consider some of the best scripts in world cinema or some of the best novels written, then you would see this to be a common theme. ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jewel Thief (Hindi), North by Northwest etc are prime examples. Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Enid Blyton all thrived on this thread. Daily soaps on the idiot box are yet another example.
Another day in the life of larger-than-life character
All super hero stories derive from this theme. This is because the central character is no ordinary person, and is gifted beyond an ordinary mortal. That’s why Superman, Spiderman, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes all are very interesting to read.
The reader does not see himself as a protagonist, but would love to be the protagonist. There is that superhuman nature of the protagonist that attracts the reader, and he or she starts worshipping, admiring, and sometimes even despising the key-role.
An extraordinary day in the life of an extraordinary character
This is treading a difficult path. You can end up creating something that’s mostly over the top. There would be too much sound and fury.
An ordinary experience in an ordinary person’s life
This is what we can all easily write. But then you have to be a gifted writer to make it an interesting read. And getting readers for what you write could end up being a daunting task.
More than two decades ago, I had attended a theatre workshop, where a renowned theatre person had explained the nava rasas. He said that if you are a good actor, then the same rasa or a complementary rasa should reflect on the faces of your audience. That should be your end goal as an actor.
If you are a writer, try replacing the audience with your reader and then set your own ambitious goals of bringing related emotions in the minds of your reader.
If you have reached so far, let me play the faithful pimp. If you feel that you would like to explore your creative side, and you are in Bangalore, then look at enroling yourself in the next workshop at BWW.