Random Ramblings

#162 : Writing a Short Story – Guest Post by Bragadeesh Prasanna

If I had gotten a dime each time this question is asked, I would have enough to buy a milkshake today. I mean, this is a question that is not being asked a lot. People just pick up the pen or open a word document and start writing. This is a very good thing.  If you want to become a musician, you don’t just listen to the masters of the instrument. You actually pick the instrument and practice it. I think it is necessary for all the acquired skills. There has to be enough practice and trial and error.

But before that, if you are planning to get into creative writing field, or to become a story teller, it is really important to read. You might have heard this often, in order to write, you should read. What does reading teach us? The different genres? The vocabulary? Or the use of the language? I guess the important part of reading is too, it makes us observe. Reading gives you perspective on how you look about things outside as well as inside.

So if you plan to write short stories, read a lot of short stories. If you plan to write novels, read a lot of novels. That is how it works. I would recommend “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver and then reflect on it and then if you still feel like writing, pick up your pen. You are good to go.

Have a Grand Opening:

I don’t mean to say you have to have a fifty car chase or a helicopter crashing on some mountains. Your short story opening paragraph is the gate pass for your readers. You need to make it interesting. This first paragraph should have your characters and the setting, at least partially and make your reader get intrigued. It can be anything. In his short story “Drive My Car” Haruki Murakami (You will be getting lot of examples from this author. He is my God Father. Of Course he doesn’t know it), starts off with a sweeping generalization. “Based on the many times he had ridden in cars driven by women, Kafuku had reached the conclusion that most female drivers fell into one of the two categories: either they were a little too aggressive or a little too timid. Luckily – and we should all be grateful or this – the latter were far more common. Generally speaking, women were more cautious than men behind the wheel. Of course, that caution was nothing to complain about. Yet their driving style tended to irritate the others on the road”

If you were a man reading this, you may have read it with a smile on your face and occasional nod. If you were a woman, then you may have found this little annoying. Either way you read it further.

Make your first paragraph count.

Characters:

Short stories need character of their own. With all due respect a man who goes to office everyday at 9 in the morning and return at 5 in the evening and his family history, should be only used in novels. Short stories do not have time and space for ordinary characters. For a short story to be great, you need your characters a bit more than ordinary. Like the blind man who teaches a normal man to draw cathedrals, like a man who befriends another man who slept with his wife, like a man who wants his friend to pursue his love interest because deep inside he feels that he is inadequate for her. The reason is simple. Short stories are short stories by word counts. You will have very less time to establish a character arc, so just make them bent at first and then straighten them up at the end. Or not.

Who tells the story?

Who tells the story is very important on how the story comes out later. If you are a very organized person, you will have corkboards with sticky notes with small markers which mention what happens first and in the middle and the end. But if you are like me, who writes with the flow, you should just chose how you decide to tell the story. You can use first person, it will help you divulge a lot of information of the character, his inner demons and secrets that nobody had known before and that will bring a certain kind of vulnerability to the character. Which means, the character will be more or less real. Unless you write, “I picked up the eye-liner from my cupboard and with a single stroke drew a perfect wing in my right eye. And it was my first attempt” Nobody will believe that, unless you are a fairy.

Second person takes intimacy to another level. If you are writing about a story which has too many intimate details like a stalker and a victim, or a policeman tailed by an assassin or a break up, second person narration works like a charm. It has been the favourite story telling technique of the political leaders around the world. Pay attention next time, when they truly trying to get on your side, they talk more about what you do than what they are going to do.

Third person is a very tricky space, you need to have a lot of practice to do that. The common pitfalls is to make sure which character has the mike or camera in their hand, when your reader follows the story.

Dialogues:

This is an optional one. But if you think you are going to include dialogues in your story make sure the dialogues are not forced. If your story is about a driver who is driving a cab at the airport and covers double shift, make sure he sound tired. Use the words you use when you are tired. If you are writing about people who are not in your own social and financial status, research on the words they use and the witty comebacks they have. Even when you have a good plot, characters and an ending people would die for, if your dialogues are forced, people will lose interest.

“What did you have for dinner?” She asked.

“I had idlies” He said

“I had dosa” She said. This is bad dialogue. This can be covered in a single sentence which won’t bore people out of their minds.

Use dialogues in moderation. It will automatically become your strong point of the story.

Conflict – or build up – or simply the story:

So you have characters, dialogues and narrative technique but what are they doing? Where are they doing it? Short stories are something we come across every day. When you listen to gossips in office canteen or the excuse of your peon on why he was late, everybody is telling a story. It is how they string up the facts and add some more to make it more believable for you. The best of these story tellers always have our attention. This brings us to the way we structure our stories.

Hook – An opening or a hook. It can be a weird character or a weird setting. Anything to grab the attention.

Conflict – Something that disrupts the normal course of events

Exposition – Background information, back stories.

Complication – Make it tough for your characters

Transition – Let the characters put up or brave the complication.

Resolution – What changed at the end of the story?

If you think about any of your favourite movies or books, you will find them abide by this structure. Once you mastered this structure you are allowed to play with it, bring non-linear narration into play or you can even simply tell the story backwards. But you should know the structure.

Short stories are not about flowery language or bamboozling plot. It has always been about coherence. If you can tell a story in a coherent way that appeals the leaders, you won.

As said earlier in this long article, read a lot of short stories, write and submit to peer groups, gather critiques and then work on your short story. Any good short story you have read should have gone through numerous revisions. And that is how it should be. Don’t get bogged down if your plot is already a story. It is not about what is told, it is always about how different people tell the same story.

About Bragadeesh  

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Avid book worm, Brilliant Blogger,Published Writer – That’s how I know him! Oh and watch out, he is soon coming up with his second book. To know more about him, do visit his blog .

PS.On Day 6 of The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#161 : A Letter to my Older Self

Hi,

Okay, starting with a ‘Hi’ sounds so cliche, but what’s life without a bit of cliches! I hope you are doing good and are staying positive. I’m sure you probably have a kid now and don’t have enough time to even think about being positive or any kind of emotion for that matter. Or may be nothing has gone according to the grand plan! Relax, it’s okay. You’ve learnt that lesson the hard way, don’t you remember?

Just refreshing your memory here, your plans after college went astray but you still made a career out of what you got and you kicked at it. A person whom you thought was your soul sister and best friend did cheat you and taunt you for a couple of years. You survived that. You survived living in a village working for a factory which didn’t have a proper restroom at all. You managed to work 10 hours a day, cook, clean and find time to write, all like a boss. You’ve held yourself together well all the time your heart broke piece by piece due to disappointment. It will all be right. Haven’t you learnt from all your lessons? Isn’t that what all life is about?

Listen to music, read that book. Clear off that To-Read pile. You need time for yourself as a person. Kids, work, in-laws, parents, sister, husband – all of them are important, but of them all you are most important. You need that inner strength to prioritize them all. That strength won’t jump from the sky and dive into you. You need to find that yourself. All the negativity that haunted you in your early twenties, you do need those again. Don’t succumb to it. It’s okay if you suck at adult-ing. Do you seriously think others are great? Your 26 year old self doesn’t think so. When in doubt, open this damn post and read. Yeah. Save the link, bookmark it, etch it off somewhere and remember to read it. You will surely need this kind of self motivation. Remember, you aren’t the type to be motivated externally. You need that internal drive. All would be well if you don’t cave in to the pressures of the mortal world, but if you do, please cheer yourself up. Motivate yourself. Doesn’t matter if shit hits the roof, you can always escape via the basement or something. There is always a way in the end. Just that you need to wade through the shit pile.

Remember, Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

With love,

Your 26 year old self who is not great at anything or doesn’t believe in catching up with the world!

PS. On Day 5 of  The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#160 : A Day-Dream

I woke up with a start as I heard the sound of footsteps. I peeped out of the slightly ajar door. Sigh. It’s just mom moving around, making sure we all get our morning fix of caffeine. If only I can sleep without waking up at the slightest sign of disturbance. How does she sleep so well? That sleepy head sister of mine!

It’s so cold! Why does she have to sleep with the AC In full blast yet snuggle inside that big piece of cloth. Can’t she turn down the AC or something? I thought that could be done. Would be a good idea to go snuggle next to her then.

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I woke up with a start again. What was that noise? Looks like some one is at the door. I ought to go stand next to mom! I jumped out of the bed and walked towards the door.

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That sound again! But hey, I think it’s coming off from beneath the bed. Ah! Must be the black thing that she caries around all day. Just as I dive under, my sister flings her hand down to retrieve it. I should probably check it out later, that device needs to be scrutinized!

She wakes up and stretches out and smiles at me. Ah! It feels all warm and fuzzy when she gives me one of her sleepy smiles! She swings her long legs down to come kiss me as I return her kiss sloppy! I lick her all over. She rubs my fluffy mane and frowns slightly. Oh no! She is probably thinking of dumping me in the shower! She lifts me gently and carries me to the living room. I love it when she does that! It’s time for our morning fix of coffee. Hey wait! Is that the smell of potato being cooked! Yaay, what a treat it is going to be for food today!

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Trrrrrrrrrrrrring came on the alarm sound! The clock read 5.45 AM and I woke up from the dream. It had all been a dream. How I wish I had a dog whom I could pet as soon as I woke up! I’ve wanted to own a dog ever since I was in class 3. Practical difficulties continue to prevent me from adopting one. Owing a dog is like day dreaming to me. It can’t possibly become a reality.

PS. On Day 4 of  The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#159 : Thuvarasi – My experience of working in a village

Fresh out of college and eager to pursue core engineering, I joined an automation start up which unfortunately shut shop in a very short period of time. Then came an opportunity which I couldn’t refuse really – A chance to work for a factory from scratch. Only catch – the factory was in a remote village down south. Having born and raised in a city, the prospect of living in an area which was 20 years behind time didn’t entice me, but the thirst to prove myself overtook my qualms.

I boarded the train and reached Tirunelveli town – This was the nearest town which had a railway station and other facilities. The weather was much harsher than Chennai. My company representative picked me and escorted me to the guest house. I was then transferred to a ladies hostel where I stayed for about 7 odd months. I travelled an hour and half every day twice. The factory where I worked was 27kms away from the hostel. People flat out refused to give house for rent to us – Working breed of Chennai women. That didn’t deter us to return.

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(The white shed that you see, the top view, is the factory which I worked in)

Here is what I ,

  1. Diversity – It’s like being in a different land. My dress, my hairstyle, my shoes and my general demeanor always earned a second look or  a stare. How often do you see a woman sporting shirt, trouser and safety shoes smack in the middle of a village, arguing in English with men twice her size. You get the drift….
  2. Culture – The people are as conservative as the whole concept of being conservative can get. Being seen with a man other than your blood relative or your spouse is completely frowned upon. It shocked them to no bounds when I climbed structures, standing as an equal to male supervisors/managers and discussed technical stuff.
  3. Hospitality – I attended a couple of weddings while I was there. The most comical part is that, they take offence if you don’t turn up, upon being invited. Like serious offence. It’s something you don’t want to do. However, when you go, they treat you like god re-incarnate. It’s such a warm and fuzzy feeling!
  4. Food – The village where I worked and the town where I stayed were both famous for spicy non vegetarian dishes. For a vegetarian who wasn’t accustomed to liberal usage of garlic, the food was a night mare. Of course, I managed to hunt down joints which would serve food just the way my taste buds demanded.. Oh and they even have a place which serves Pizza.
  5. Caste Politics – This is something which shocked me. Having grown up in a environment where no one bothered to ask which caste I belong to, it was utterly surprising to witness such questions being asked without a hint of deliberation. That division, the prevailed treatment, the communal tension – the whole mile which our politicians shout out and debate on new channels – I’ve seen them all.

Work-wise, it turned out to be the best part of my career till date. One happy experience in spite struggles.

PS. On Day 3 of the Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#158 : Apple-d! #writebravely

Having had the harrowing experience of being mugged and my phone being snatched from me, I vehemently objected the suggestion of buying a smart phone again. I owned a shiny grey Apple 6S, which was snatched from me by two college kids speeding away on a bike. Given that my wedding was approaching around the time of this incident, my phone held many photographs – all samples of saris and what not.  Most importantly, it held a zillion contacts and an elaborate to-do list. The pictures were all quite private in nature, I dreaded misuse. That’s when the security features of Apple came into play. Thankfully, I had enabled the “Find my iPhone” option. What surprised me the most was this – I had blocked my SIM as soon as the phone was snatched. The phone was password protected (fingerprint too). However, around 12 AM, the  as culprits had managed to connect to the internet. Bang and the phone wiped itself off! I had logged in from iCloud and set to erase the phone. All my data on the phone was wiped off. Or so I believe from the status on iCloud. I’ve filed an FIR and nothing has really happened.

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Days later after my parents insisted that I was being utterly foolish to not buy a smart phone again and after much persuasion, I agreed to use my dad’s phone – which was again an Apple. He blanked out the phone before giving it to me and I connected it to my Apple ID and voila! All my photos, contacts and lists – everything from the old phone was back on. This is what the whole incident taught me,

  1. Using a mobile is inevitable, but not being too dependent on it is a choice. I switched back to good old paper list and contacts being noted down on a diary.
  2. Being extra careful doesn’t hurt. I never use my phone when on the road, but that day was an exception and it costed me dearly.
  3. Backup is the key – Thanks to my nature work, the concept of backing up digital stuff is something which has been drilled into me. I had backed up my phone just a day before it was stolen from me. Not much of a data loss.
  4. Watch what you store, especially if you are a woman – I had tonnes of pictures of me with my friends. That would have been a treasure trove for perverts to misuse. Thank god for the thoughtful engineers at Apple to have incorporated the remote wipe feature.
  5. NO. This is not an advertisement for Apple phones. Just that mine helped me.

PS. On Day 2 of the Write Tribe Festival of Words #6 

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Random Ramblings

#157 : The Blue Fountain Pen – My Treasured possession

Owing a perfectly working beautiful looking Cross fountain pen has been a distant dream since childhood. My craze for ink pens began when I first chanced upon my grandfather’s enviable collection of pens. As kids, my cousin and me, like all the other kids in our country, spent much of our summer vacation at our grandparents place. His library was our regular play area. He was possessive about his books and pens, but had complete faith in our ability to keep to ourselves and not disturb things in the room. It was a dingy little room with two open shelves and a small Godrej berow. It was all filled with books of every possible shape, print, binding and language. He could read Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Sanskrit and Marathi. Just at the entrance of the room, there was a perfectly crafted spacious wood table with one big shelf underneath to the right and a small drawer to the left. The table housed a type writer which was always covered with a gray cover. He used to spend hours writing and typing, sitting on that very desk while we kids sat on the floor and kept to ourselves. After all, one can’t really expect two kids with a cooking set to cause much trouble. He always kept the draw locked. As we grew up, our fascination with the sounds from the type writer and the colorful pens he used increased. We used to bug him to let us type or use his pen. He would relent a bit and let us play around for a while before shooing us off.

Then we grew up and forgot all about his type writer and pens. He had sold his type writer and purchased a computer. I taught him how to use it and started spending time with him again. He used to lend me his pens but made sure I knew the value of the pen I was using. All his pens were expensive. He had written much of his published works with those very pens. That fascination for ink pens, which I lost during the years of slogging at school slowly started creeping in again. I ensured to take good care of all the ink pens I owned.It never occurred to me that he would pass on his collection to me one day.  The world had already moved on to felt pens and what not, but it was something he wouldn’t give up on, and it was a trait he passed on to me among other things. I still don’t like writing with a ball point pen. It doesn’t have that smoothness an ink pen can offer. He passed away and I was too busy pursuing my engineering degree to think about his pen collection. As such we had enough trouble disposing his books.

One fine day, when I chanced upon the blog post of my friend who wrote about his experience of using an ink pen after a long time, the flood gate of memories opened. I regretted not bothering to check if my mother had retained his pens. I decided to go poking around the house to check if she had kept it safely. That’s when my dad came to rescue. My grandfather, apparently, had passed on about 6 fountains pens, most of which had gold nibs and had asked him to give it to me when the time was right. My dad gave me just one pen out of the collection. My joy knew no bounds. It was the very pen which my grand father used to write his last book before he passed away. I had seen him using it.

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The moment I held the pen and wrote a few words in my journal, a warm feeling engulfed me. I experience that every time I use it to write. No matter in what state of mind I am in. That pen is my most treasured possession.

PS. Good thing I decided to join Write Tribe’s Festival of Words. A much needed trip down the memory lane.

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Random Ramblings

#156 : A ‘Gold’-en Opportunity

Writing is an absolute joyful activity for me, just that I’m always in a state of confusion as to what to write. Thanks to Mehta Jewellery and to Chennai Bloggers Club for prompting me to write about one person I haven’t written about much.

The supreme being has blessed me with great people in my life. Particularly, the men in my life are nothing short of being stellar. My father, my husband, my grandfather,and my mentor – the constant men in my life are literally the driving force who have guided me and continue to support me in all my endeavors. I have written much about my father and my grandfather, it is high time I wrote about the man who entered my life much later and flipped it completely – My husband, Vignesh. Of course, one post about my mentor is also in the cards!

So where do I begin! We’ve known each other for enough time, to be overlook our quirks and shortcomings. He is the first male best friend I had and he continues to be that friend who is there for me no matter what. That transition from being a friend to a romantic interest can’t possibly be defined in our case. It just happened. He has stood by me in my lowest times and has stuck to me firmly when I did my best to push him away.

We women always end up having high expectations when it comes to a romantic interest or a life partner, thanks to the insane benchmarks our fathers set. Though there are exceptions to this theory, my case is not one of them. If I were to bench mark my dad as the perfect man, I would possibly never find a life partner at all. I have to thank my mother for drilling one thing into my thick head – My father is what he is because he is my father. He might be a different person as a husband, but he is a different person as such as a father. Expecting the same from a life partner would be nothing short of idiocy. Vignesh comes across as being a shy and reserves person. That’s actually a facade. He is warm, witty, mischievous and a caring  person. Doesn’t such a man who can put up with my extremities deserve the best?

It is a custom of my family, to present the groom with a bracelet, a ring and a chain during the wedding. When I read about the exclusive men collection and visited Mehta jewellery’s website, I was left totally despaired. If only they had come up with this 8 months ago!

Jewellery shopping is one thing I absolutely hate. I abhor the very prospect of wearing pieces of that gold and bright metal. Nope. Gold is not for me. However, for once, I wanted to shop personally for the ornaments that were to be gifted for  him. My man deserved the best and I wanted to ensure it. I’ve never witnessed my father buying gold for himself. My husband would probably follow suit and never shop for himself. Probably these pieces that are being gifted are the only pieces of jewellery that he would own and use in his life time for himself. I was thoroughly disappointed with the collection available in the market and had to settle for something which was just okay and not mind blowing.

Surprisingly, none of the shops I visited had an exclusive men collection. All they had were the boring traditional stuff. It is indeed a pleasant surprise to know that at least one jeweller has taken a very sensible decision to bring in Men’s collection which is inspired by the Royal Enfield bike. My man is just the opposite of what that bike personifies. Owing a Bullet bike is synonymous to being a enigmatic and a hunk of a person. It takes a lot to tame a 500cc bike! That hand crafted beauty of a machine is an owner’s pride, just like the sophisticated men’s collection that Mehta jewellery has come up with. However, doesn’t a perfect gentleman like him deserve this sophisticated collection of jewel and that beauty of a bike?

It’s never too late and I inted to visit the shop soon to buy these very pieces which caught my fancy from the website.

The bracelet looks absolutely stunning and perfect! That chain with pendant – isn’t it something unique!

Vignesh, you are worth more than the gold I can offer, but this is my way of showing that you hold a special place in my heart!

– This blog is written for “Ride the Royal” contest organised by Mehta Jewellery for their exclusive men’s collection.
– #RideTheRoyal
– #MehtaJewellery
– Visit www.mehtajewellery.com and browse their other collections as well.