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Posts Tagged ‘Short Story’

Somebody asked me the other day if writing crime fiction was significantly different from writing any other fiction. At first glance it would appear that it is not. After all, crime fiction is like telling any other story. It has to have a plot, a properly paced story graph, character development graph, conflict, resolution etc etc.

However, I think crime fiction is probably the more difficult to write because it requires the most careful crafting. You have to keep track of so many things. What actually happened? Who are the characters? What are they saying? Are they lying (duh!)? If so why? All the threads have to be tied up and all the loopholes plugged.

Then there is the question of detail. How much detail is too much detail? It is generally agreed that if your PI knows it, your readers should, too. However, it has to be given in a clever and interesting way or the readers will zone out.

It is considered bad form to hide vital information from readers and then rejoice when they fail to guess who the real killer is. One has to constantly remember that your readers will always be trying to second guess you. Therefore it is a real challenge to give out all the information and still retain suspense.

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There comes a time in everyone’s life when one has to go back to the basics. Nowhere is it seen more plainly than in sport where peaks and troughs are regularly hit and are painfully evident to see. It is amazing how a sportsperson who is, as sports commentators are fond of saying, ‘timing the ball sweetly’ or in  ‘fine nick’ the week before can struggle to get a racket/bat on the ball in the very next week.

Sometimes the lean patch can last a long time and while it persists, can slowly erode the player’s confidence till she doesn’t believe she can compete with the, again as sports commentators are fond of saying, ‘the best in the field.’ To break this vicious cycle they are advised to go back to the basics. Focus on your rhythm, footwork and hitting through the ball cleanly. Focus on winning just the very next point. Then the next. If you do that, your confidence will slowly return and soon you’ll be able to strategise ahead for a clutch of points and then the whole match.

I hope you can see where I’m going with this. (And no, I haven’t turned into a motivational speaker or a sports psychologist).

As you know, it’s been slow going for me for some days now on the writing front. Much as I tried, I just couldn’t figure out why. And then I realised I was thinking about writing the whole novel, that is 100,000 words. And to make matters worse I’ve started two. So that’s at least 250,000 words.

Think of it like that and the task seems daunting. The trick is to focus on writing one scene well. Then the next. Soon, as you get a grip on the language and the characters you’ll be able to write more than a scene at a time and before you know it, the novel is finished. Voila! Simple, isn’t it?

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You know, it occurred to me that I’ve been waxing about writing for so long – what one needs to do to get published or produced or whatever – and I left out the most important thing. Luck.

You can have talent by the oodles, dedication and determination but if you haven’t got luck you’re pretty much toast. On the other hand, you can average to zilch talent but if you have the lady on your side you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps my placing too much on mere chance stems from the industry I come from.

While luck plays a role in any field in life, its importance is exaggerated in mine. Every day I see talented people struggling away, unable to make a mark. On the other hand you have a music director (I shall refrain from using names), whose sole talent in life is creative stealing. *Gasp* you guessed???!!! And here I was soooo careful.

Of course what I’m saying could be pure baloney. As one erstwhile leading tennis player, talking about the favourable percentage of close net and line calls that regularly went his way, said, “The harder I practice the luckier I get.” Perhaps in sport. I mean, that is one area you need to have some skill. And hone it. You just can’t wake up one day and bend it like Beckham. *Sorry* I couldn’t think of a more original one.

Elsewhere, I think, luck is a necessary and sufficient condition for success. So all you aspiring writers, singers, musicians, you too can get lucky. It’s really a question of practice. *You too can win* Do I sound sufficiently like Shiv Khera? God, where did that name come from? It’s been ages since we heard it! There was a time where he was everywhere. And then he just disappeared. Guess who the lady deserted.

BTW, what do you think of the title of this post? I dithered between luck by chance and oye luck luck oye and chose the latter. I am a Dilliwali at heart. What to do, I’m like this only.

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I was watching the telly a couple of days ago and I happened to catch a 100 richest celebs kinda show on E!

Now, most of them have had to work for their supper but some, like Steven Spielberg get paid on just waking up! Royalties etc, you got it. And guess who was next on the list? JK Rowling. According to the show she’s worth a billion plus pounds. And the show was produced in 2007! Since then there’s been Stephanie Meyers, too.

Now, I was  filled with envy. Cross that. My new age guru will be horrified to hear that. *affirmation to self: Day after day I’m getting better and better and better. The world is filled with abundance and I live in this abundance. I deserve my good fortune and celebrate it*

Anyway, envy or motivation, call it what you will, but I decided to do something about my own, shall we say, considerably less salubrious pecuniary state. I called upon all my experience (and it is vast, spanning investment banking, adventure sports, publishing and writing) and arrived at a winning formula.

As you know, writing a novel is hard work and takes a lot out of you. Added to that is the uncertainty that it will be published. And even if it is, there’s no guarantee that it will sell, let alone be a best seller.

First things first. We have to begin the project by de-risking it. A good way to do that is to attempt a romance. According to the latest trends in fiction, romance still sells. In the wake of the Twilight series, a spate of vampire novels have hit the market but thre’s appetite for more. Well written conspiracies, spelling the doom of mankind, still work.

So, a good beginning premise would be a vampire romance set against the backdrop of an impending disaster.

Now that we’ve de-risked the model, we have to turn it into a multibagger. To do that you have to get attention. And not just the odd newspaper interview/review kinda thing. I’m talking serious, reams and reams of newsprint. The kind that’s devoted to the controversy of the day. Enter Raj Thakeray.

But. But, we can do one better. And that is, we can try and get the book banned. Based on all the above analysis, I’ve decided on what I’m going to write next. Watch out for it tomorrow. Meanwhile, do write in your thoughts on the subject.

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I was worried. Rati was back too. I guess I should have seen this coming when Trisha came back. It wasn’t Trisha who worried me, but Rati. She was tightly wound and tended to be paranoid and suspicious. Trisha was really not a problem. She was high-spirited and playful and easy to live with.

Although, as Rati would no doubt say, and I would have to agree, she did have a tendency to overdo things, especially things that make you cringe the morning after, which in itself was cause for shame, if not concern. And, as doubtless Trisha would argue, and I would again have to agree, Rati was impotent. For all her paranoia, Rati was curiously impotent, unwilling to take action. Her usual reaction was to shut herself up. At least, Trisha had more gumption than Rati.

All the same, it was rather tedious having them around. As I sat mulling over my options, the doorbell buzzed.

“Don’t open the door! See who it is first,” Rati said.

See what I mean? I mean who could it be? A murdering maid? Actually in Bombay one could never tell, so maybe I was being too hasty in judging her.

Rati broke into my thoughts. “Who is it?”

“I didn’t check, but I think it might be Raoul,” I said.

“Oh goody! Let him in and let the party begin,” Trisha said.

“Why? Didn’t you tell him it was over? What does he want now?” Rati said.

“What do you think he wants?”

“Trisha’s a slut. Don’t let him in. Before you know it, he’ll have seduced you back to where you were.”

“What’s so objectionable about going back to bed?”

My head was starting to throb. “Guys, guys, if we all have to live here, can’t we all just try to get along?”

“Don’t tell me. She’s the psycho,” Trisha said.

“At least this time she’s working with me. Not against me,” I said.

“Just because she isn’t telling you to blow your brains out? She makes you paranoid.”

“I keep her alert. It’s a dangerous world out there.”

“If she lets him in she might end up having sex. Yeah, I see the danger.”

“Don’t listen to her. You can’t afford to relax.”

“Now you know why you haven’t been having orgasms.”

“Shut up! Both of you. It was just the mailman,” I said.

Really, it didn’t seem like I had many options. I got up and strode across to the bedroom. I reached for the vial on the table by my bedside.

 “Wait! What are you doing? Trisha, stop her. She’s going to kill us.”

“I hate to agree with her, but she’s right. Don’t do it!”

“We’re not the enemy. Prozac is,” they both cried.

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I guess this post is in response to my readers’ constant queries about chucking their jobs and taking up writing and how I feel about it. My usual advice is caution. Not because the proposition is dicey – I have written a post sometime ago about how aspiring writers in India have never had it so good – but because I feel one should wait and find out if they have it in them to be writers.

People make these decisions under a misguided assumption about how writing being a glamorous profession. It is not. It is just like any other job and requires you to show up at work day after day after day whether you feel like it or not. In addition to that, it is a lonely job. At least in a normal job you have coffee and cigarette breaks where you can have laugh away your frustrations with buddies and subvert your suicidal tendencies.

I, myself am seriously considering switching from my sixth floor flat to one on the first floor. So the breeze won’t be as nice but at least there will be less of a mess to clean up. I may even escape with just a broken limb or two and little or no irreparable damage.

All these thoughts got me thinking about whether there was a way one could find out if they have it in them to be a writer. And then I happened to go to Shelfari where all these people were raving about this site which, apparently, is a Godsend.

It is a bit like tail the story, an experiment that I myself had started sometime ago whereby I (or anyone) started a story and then someone else took it up and then someone else and so on. My experiment was a success for while but then it fizzled out, mainly because I didn’t have the time to moderate it and propel the story forward when interest levels waned. Plus the subject I had chosen, a sci-fi kinda thing, didn’t exactly set everyone afire.

Now there is panhistoria.  There are dozens and dozens of novels with numerous people writing them. The novels are in every sort of genre from horror to fantasy to action to romance to westerns. You can simply ask to join in on any one of them. Or you can start your own novel.

There are not many moderators with binding rules so your creativity is not curbed. Besides the interactive participation, having people wait on for your additions to stories keeps you on deadline. It forces you to write regularly which is a good thing of you are a procrastinator. Plus there’s an element of competition which always helps. You try to wow the readers by outdoing the author before you. As a result you read more – you’ve gotta first read to outclass ­– and hone your writing skills.

If you want to be a writer, go there and see if you can stick it out, whether you have enough ideas in you and, more importantly, if you are having fun.

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Whenever stuck for ideas, the news is your best source. It certainly is my best source. Just recently I was stuck for an idea for a character whose public profile was impeachable but who had a sinister private profile. And then Lt. Col Shrikant Purohit came along.

When the news first came out, it left most of us reeling with shock. A member of the Indian Army, the one institution that still commands respect, engaged in terrorist activities, why the idea was outrageous. Or was it?

Look at it from his point of view.

(Disclaimer: This is pure speculation and is not based on any facts)

He was probably a loyal member of this stellar organization, serving his country without question in inhospitable and downright hostile areas. He was probably engaged in counter insurgency ops in J&K. He was probably freezing his butt off patrolling at Siachen in knee deep snow.

For what?  To protect an openly ungrateful people and a government that doesn’t care. Through unjustified brickbats and unfair pay commissions he remained stoic and his patriotism was unshakable.

They caught several terrorists who were later let off for political or other reasons (prisoners for hostages kinda exchange). And (behold the mother of all ironies) one of these very rascals later went on to become a prominent political figure whom Purohit was forced to salute! It is just too much. And the straw that broke the camel’s back. Is it any wonder that the Mumbai Police openly refused to salute Gawli (or was it protect, or both)?

Of course this is only a general outline. Many people snap under unrelenting stress, and in a variety of ways, not necessarily anarchical. To explain his leanings towards militant Hinduism, you’d have to first concede that he was an Alpha male type personality, and then go back and reconstruct his childhood. To begin with, you’d have to consider that he was probably raised in a middle class Hindu household with allegiance to the Sangh, which was not a terrorist organization.

Even at this stage, to him, religion was private and had no place in his professional life at all. But gradually, he saw the rise of Islamic terrorism and, what seemed to him, a persecution of Hindus. This rhetoric was, no doubt, inculcated by a newly radicalised Sangh. He knew that the Government would not do anything about it, only pander to minorities. And that he had to do something if he had to arrest the inevitable downward slide of his beloved country into chaos. Here he probably saw Israel, with their prompt and retaliatory bombing, as an example. And a religious vigilante was born.

If you undertake this speculative exercise, bam, you’ve got a character. Hell, you’ve got a story.

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