the mutt

Another one that got away

Posted in General, Oddities, Writing by grx20 on July 29, 2009

I’d posted earlier about stories and ideas that somehow get away. I read somewhere ‘the faintest ink is better than the strongest memory.’ So I started keeping a note of thoughts and ideas. Sometimes, I’d even have an entire paragraph all worked out, as in the following case.

And sometimes, they get away.

I can’t remember how the rest of this story goes. Or even what it is about. Don’t mean to sound pompous, but damn, I’ve forgotten at a real cliffhanger point. What was the ‘condition?’ What was the only symptom?

There’s probably a name for the condition – some psychologist’s name followed by the word ‘complex’. As if I am a sprawling housing society, the foundations laid in a series of deep-rooted mindf-s.
But since I never asked anyone, I never found out if it had a name. It manifested itself in one telling way. In fact, that is the only symptom of the condition.

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Quicksand beginnings.

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on March 31, 2009

When I was young (ahem, expected aside comes here), I had a sentence stuck in my head. It was the beginning of a story, but I could never take it forward.

dark-cloudsDark clouds threatened the village below.

Finally, after a couple of months, it worked its way into a terrible science fiction, comedy story. It goes like this: The Gods have decided to take away emotions from humans, after witnessing the splendid mess it makes of their lives. (In any case, Earth and emotions was just an experiment of a minor God, so no big deal).  The deed is done, without much fanfare, though the minor God objects passionately. As a result, a favourite writer of the  Gods dishes out terrible stuff, because he can no longer feel and write. In an emergency meeting (during which time the minor God smirks a lot), they decide to reverse the decision.

So where do the dark clouds come in and threaten? When the minor God makes a trip to earth (disguised as a mortal) to meet his favourite writer, before emotions are taken away. The context and setting for the line turned out to be a park, and the protagonist sits on a park bench, engaged in a nail biting, staring contest with an unyielding oak, oblivious to the gathering darkness above his head. And also in the heavens.

Did I say I wrote that when I was young? Make that very young. Truth be told, I still like parts of the story.
It still makes me laugh … a little.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been stuck in another Quicksand Sentence. All my efforts to extract a story, a scene or a character from it have failed.

Every summer they came to the lake.

The working file has many aborted starts and sentences stumped mid way. I keep writing about a man and a woman and an umbrella and a shirt flying through the wind.

Every summer they came to the lake.

One thing is for sure, I’m not making this a science fiction comedy.

Mankind’s oldest Plot Generator

Posted in General, Writing by grx20 on October 16, 2008

It doesn’t get older and more reliable than this!
Following is a list of Basic Human Drivers, (in no particular order), from the Science of Influence by
Dr Kevin Hogan.

Basic human drivers

Defence/fight or flight
Order and organisation
Physical activity

As a source of writing prompts, it’s quite useful.

For instance, The Hero could be seeking one of these and has to overcome hurdles (which could also be drawn from this list), before he finally gets what he wants. Er … or does not, depending on how kind-hearted you are.

Let’s give it a shot: 12 year old seeks Acceptance by his friends. But his friends have a sense of superiority coming from their financial position – Status. They give the boy a test to prove he’s worthy of joining their Order/Organisation. It involves a Fight. The boy loses, badly and becomes a laughing stock. Swears Vengeance … etc. etc.

Primitive – but you get the idea.

Another idea is to jumble the list and go in sequence and use each Driver to take the story forward.
If you come with something interesting, let me know … not the plot … just that it worked!

Overheard at another site

Posted in Oddities, Writing by grx20 on October 14, 2008

In “Overheard” I usually post something I have, well, overheard that serves as a writing prompt.

I found a collection of absolutely hilarious stuff here. It’s called People say the darndest things, and is at a blog called Where Pilgrims Disappear and has some interesting reads. This list is great fun, even just to read.

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Write now – a simple system to get started

Posted in Writing by grx20 on October 10, 2008

It started as a one-off exercise, but has evolved into a habit. A writing routine, that’s worked well for me – it keeps me motivated, improves my observation skills and my writing significantly. Maybe it will work for you as well. It is an exercise in writing, as much as it is an exercise in communication.

It comes from the fact that life happens as much during the big, momentous occasions as it does during the seconds that tick away with predictable monotony. And when I come across one such moment, I tuck it away in my mind (and later in a notebook).

Later, I recollect one such moment – usually it is a snapshot of a person, an expression, a conversation even. And I write about it. Some of these have the potential to be character profiles, some have the germ of a story in them, some have only enough for a single cliff-hanger moment. But they all have an element of human drama.

I challenge myself to capture it as best as I can. To be able to bring alive all that I felt and convey to the reader the scene as vividly as I saw and experienced it. The exercise forces me to find the right words, to look up the thesaurus, to be succinct.

The payoff? Hopefully, as I keep at it, as I practice, the quality of my writing will improve. And hopefully, writing about life and describing it will be just a little less daunting and intimidating.

The idea is to write for the sake of writing. Not to meet a word/page deadline, but just to write for experiencing the joy of writing. 

Lately, I’ve found that it works splendidly like a warm up. And something to write on the days I have nothing to write.

Example: Walking around in my apartment complex – I see a small girl walking away, slowly, dejected, with a badminton racquet hanging limply from her hands. She has no one to play with and the sadness is tangible.

Another one. One night, the train I was in was pulling out the station. In the distance, I see two cane chairs – easy chairs – suspended from the ceiling in a balcony. Lit by a dim fluorescent bulb, they stand out in the darkness – and in the light breeze come together, part, come together, part.

I ask myself, how can I best describe these moments with words?

If you have a similar system or something different, do write in.

Overheard #2

Posted in Oddities, Writing by grx20 on August 31, 2008

School was out and I was making my way past school kids running around crazily, oblivious to the traffic snarl they had caused.

Two boys walking ahead were blocking the pavement. And my best efforts of pulling a sizzling Schumacher overtaking maneuver were being thwarted with aplomb. That’s when I heard this:

I’ve decided, I’m going to tell him.

Don’t, please don’t.

Somebody has to tell him.

No don’t do something like that. It’s not important.

I’m not doing anything bad …

First thought: he wanted to tell someone (a classmate, perhaps) that he was boring; nobody wanted to be his friend and everyone was just humouring him.

Wish I’d had a happier thought.

Mulled over possible story lines – overheard fragments make great story prompts. But abandoned the exercise when I couldn’t think of any ‘happily ever after’ story lines.

“Don’t worry, nobody will find out”

Posted in Oddities, Writing by grx20 on August 22, 2008

“Don’t worry, nobody will find out”

A phrase I overheard, when walking past two boys on the road.

Probably college guys.

Of all the possible things, my immediate thought was – are they planning to cheat in an exam?

Almost four years later, I wonder – did anyone find out?

In any case, it was a good writing prompt for a morning of frustration when the blank page seemed to be headed for win by KO.

Since then, have been keeping my ears open. Particularly when walking past people.

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