A compulsive urge to tell a story and the people and situations they confront in everyday life impel creative minds to weave extraordinary narratives out of them, feel a set of upcoming writers attending the Dehradun Community Literature Festival.
“The primary requirement of course is a compulsive need to tell a story which is finally woven out of one’s experience of everyday life,” said young author Lavanya Shanbhogue, participating in a panel discussion at the annual event on the topic, Turning Everyday Into A Novel: What It Takes To Become A Writer.
A writer has to depend on what he sees around him for the raw material of his story, she said. “Writers are keen observers of people and situations. They are eavesdroppers too and all that they see and observe including a variety of people who are funny, hilarious, intelligent and cruel go into what they finally create,” she said.
Citing her own example, she said her work titled ATS Guide To an Arranged Indian Marriage, though a fictional work, is based on her own experiences with arranged marriage when she had to make tea and samosas for people coming to her place to see her as a prospective bride. “All that you personally go through finds its way in some way or the other into your stories,” said the author of the novel The Heavens We Chase.
Echoing her, journalist-turned-writer Kiran Manral said stories cannot be created out of a void, adding they have to be rooted in everyday world to be authentic and convincing to readers. “It’s the nitty gritty of life which has to be woven into a narrative. So everyday life often serves as a big source for detailing a story and making it convincing for the audiences. Everyday situations help people relate to the story they are reading and identify with the characters,” she said.
All the authors were of the opinion that aspiring writers must write a few thousand words on a daily basis like a musician’s daily riyaz to hone their skills
The writer’s excellence lies in how well he organises the material derived from everyday life and elevates it to the level of fine art in a work of fiction, Shanbhoug said. Short story writer Meghana Pant who also participated in the panel debate said a writer has to be in sharp empathy with the world around him to write some thing worthwhile.
All these authors were one in their opinion that aspiring writers must write a few thousand words on a daily basis like a musician’s daily riyaz to hone their skills. They also advised aspiring writers to learn to take initial rejections by publishers in their stride and work on those rejections to make improvements in their writings. Lavanya said her manuscripts were rejected by 8-9 leading publishers leaving her heartbroken but she gradually learnt to understand the thin line of difference between rejection of her as a person and her work.
“Aspiring writers must realise that initial rejection of their work by publishers is not their rejection as persons. They should work on the rejections to improve their work and bounce back,” she said. Giving the point of view of publishers, Pant said leading publishers receive 40 to 50 manuscripts on a daily basis and deciding on their quality and saleability is not an easy job. So initial rejections must not dishearten an aspiring writer.
Lavanya’s novel The Heavens We Chase, set in pre- Partition India under the British Colonial rule, was published by Roli Books under their India Ink imprint. The author is also a winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Special Prize (2011). Her short story, The Crystal Snuff Box and the Pappadum, was adapted for radio by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association and was broadcast in all Commonwealth countries.
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