Heart of Writing lies in the Art of Storytelling…
We are all a treasure-house of stories, houseful of stories that are beautiful to dutiful to bad to sad to mad captured in our moments of life’s journey and incidentally get stored in our memories. We have so many of them, and many of us just don’t know what do with those stories seeded with our emotions and nurtured by our motions over years that keep piling in our cupboard.
They are locked.
They are sketchy.
They are not skeletons that come tumbling when we open the lock; they are sketches of our thoughts layered in those hidden shelves of the board.
How to creatively bring out those subtle stories inside us and compassionately share with the world outside?
The art of storytelling is not easy task and hence it is an art.
Like any art form this art also needs the “will and skill” to craft the story.
There is always that uncanny debate on the shorter version vs. longer version of the art of storytelling. The shorter versions of stories are the short stories and strangely, the short stories are in short supply. This has been the case for years and still it continues to be there, though in recent time there has been subtle change in the trend with shrinking attention span of readers. Technology is perhaps the culprit. It is taking away much of the quality time from our repository. We are drawn into the phenomena of quick consumption.
The faster the better…
The lesser the better…
There is a tussle between the short and the long. The short stories and the novel, though both tell stories, one does it in few thousand words and the other needs hundred thousands words get the story get its act in place. With the crumbling of physical place and conquest of virtual space, the dynamics are changing and changing so fast for us even to catch up. These facets of writing, the short stories have been given a secondary treatment as against the longer versions called as the novel.
There is a pride and prejudice in writing short stories.
Unfortunately, the prejudice has taken precedence over the pride.
There is discrimination and is not justified. If we go back to the roots of acclaimed literature and peep into the works of great writers from O Henry to Ernest Hemingway to Mark Twain to Anton Chekhov to Edgar Alan Poe to Alice Munro; it is their wonderful work on short stories that laid the foundation for building the longer version of their literary work.
The heart of art and literature resides very much in the craft of writing short stories and art of storytelling.
The heart of great stories lies in the body of mind inflicted with “agony and anger”.
Great Stories just cannot emerge out of vacuüm or thin air, it has to have a seeding and it needs to get nurtured with emotions and it needs to get the smell and the sense to raise above the rest to become the best. We all have certain traits that predisposes us towards certain passion in life. The work that we love to do and we enjoy doing it more and the more we do we refine our thoughts and we hone our skill, the thinking skill to the writing skill.
Writing is a Skill like any other skill we need to sharpen our saw to keep our skill relevant and useful. Writing short story is beautiful way to express ourselves and make our emotions get an outlet to come out of the cudgels of life’s heavy hammer that keeps hitting hard at us everyday on our sensitive senses.
There are technicalities that go in the structuring a short story and heart of the structure lies in the art of plotting and the craft of characterization.
Plotting is an action verb. There are series of events in the story, and these are discrete events that needn’t follow a sequence but they need to form a pattern. Short stories are so much about the plot as there is very little room left for setting and the expanding the characters as it calls for few of them.
The art lies in crafting the plot. The plot revolves around the conflict and the resolution. It has to be done in such short scenes that space for maneuvering is very much limited.
This very inherent limitation enhances the finesse of the “Art of Writing”.
There is this danger of quickly hopping from one scene to the next without giving the reader the smooth ride; the reader may feel the bump and the jerk. The reader can absorb one or max two in such a short ride but if we ignore and continue the bumpy ride we will force the reader to get rid of us and get off the ride. There is this delicate balance which we need to build between the “form and flow” of the short story and that comes with experience of writing and the exploration of reading. This reading goes so much hand in gloves with the writing that it is impossible to achieve excellence in writing without excelling in the habit of good reading. The more we read the more we understand and appreciate the finer nuances of writing and reading are not restricted to books on good writing but writing that have failed the litmus test of good writing.
One of the fundamental differentiator of good writing from the not so good writing larger hinges on the hold one has on “the language”.
All of us have lovely tales to tell, and the question comes down to the skill of writing, though the will to write makes a huge difference. If there is no will there is no way we can share our stories and “will is intangible” and “skill is tangible”. Initially, we all get caught in this “skill-will” conundrum and get pulled apart by the forces of will on one side and the forces of skill on the other side.
The spectrum of skills that governs our storytelling ability are reading skill, thinking skill, imagining skill, language skill and of course the writing skill. The will is about the passion we posses and the way we want our passion to push us beyond the boundaries and power us to break the glass ceiling and reach beyond the sky, sky is not the limit in storytelling, imagination is the limit and in writing and telling stories imagination is limitless.
The conventional body structure of the short stories is the beginning, the middle and the end. It is often said and it has been doggedly practiced by many great storytellers that the opening has to be power packed and it is where the storyteller catches the reader attention and instills that insect of curiosity that keep bugging the reader and then when as storyteller we have implanted that bug in the reader’s mind, the reader is part of our journey and wants to piggyback on our plot.
Here it becomes so sensitive.
Anything can go wrong, slight mistakes here and there can put the reader off-board, and then it becomes too difficult to get the reader back on ride. Sometimes we may have a weak link in the plot but if we have a good hold on the language we can protect the weak link and surf the rough ride of the wave. Many times we may miss the exact sequencing of the plot to grab the reader’s attention but good language can help the reader to try further inside the story. The character is what instantly connects with the reader and a well crafted characteristics of a character imprints in the mind of the reader, the reader is able to relate and this is exactly what we all as storytellers wants to do by telling a story through the “eyes and ears” of the real characters from whom we have derived the inspiration.
There is always a touch of our imagination.
Therein lays the eye for fashion by the designer though the fabric remains the same in the hands of all writers.
The craft gets the draft form the imagery and imagination.
The inspiration is from the nature and the way we nurture those inspiration over a time and then there is that stimulation that we get or a crisis that hit us hard and we are in deep pain and we have no means to assuage that pain.
We feel stuck. We feel handcuffed.
We feel strangulated. We feel asphyxiated.
We want to break free.
We want to beat the heat.
We want to cut the chase.
We want to escape the orbit.
We need that escape velocity. We need that fuel to fire.
We need the structure to capture our side story. We need the language to stitch the threads of the broken heart of our life.
We need the balm to calm us.
We need the arm not for arm-twisting but for turning a twist at the end. We need a quote in the beginning to question the reader so that the reader keeps searching for the answer till the end. Hence, the end is as much important as the start if not more, if we lift the expectation in the beginning and we are not able to keep up the momentum and sustaining till the end becomes the challenge, taking the challenge is good way to build the story but designing the end decides the fate of the story.
Short Stories are wonderful playground for writers to put their skills to true test and try their hands in perfectly honing their skills need to excel in the art of writing. It is never easy to confine the creative thoughts to a defined boundary.
Writing is about creativity and writing is about breaking those conventions and conventional boundaries.
It is about venturing into uncharted territories. It is about escaping the reality and while doing so we capture the real side of our life and society at large, writing is mirror reflection of the outside world inside us. This hypothesis appears complex, there is a massive tussle between the reality and the perception of the world around us and within us.
Writer’s role is to simplify those complexities through the art of storytelling.