Monday, 28 March 2016

‘All was still when José started walking homeward.’



Brian Mendonça

I always wanted to write a story but shrank from the enormity of the task. My mind would go blank, cowering under the complex of all those pristine, published stories I had read.  Boccaccio’s Decameron, Gogol’s ‘Overcoat,’ Marquez’s ‘Miss Forbes’s Summer of Happiness,’ and Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily’ loomed before me. The more I read, the more I felt unequal to the task. The daemon was eluding me.

I am more comfortable writing poetry, though I have not done much of it lately.  Presently I am more into the kind of writing for this weekly column. Loosely described as creative non-fiction (CNF), it does not qualify as a short story. Blogging is a more intimate sort of writing on lastbustovasco.blogspot.in. Writing a novel seems a pretty distant dream – though some have suggested I should take a stab at it.

But surely I could do a short story? What business did I have teaching a course on creative writing if I could not write a short story?  When ads asked for stories from Goa, I so wanted to contribute one, but faced a writer’s block. A  Creative Writing workshop I attended years back did not do much to raise my confidence. I was beginning to feel low and useless. I was facing a crisis as a writer.

Author, Jessica Faleiro recently did a 2-day workshop on creative writing for college students.  I actively participated in it and went through the notes of the first day. The assignment before the next session (Day 2) was to write your own story. The day before the final day of the workshop I still had not written my story. I was desperately thinking about possible storylines during Mass, during rosary, during dinner and while driving. It was now or never.  I looked at some of the stories sent in by students. They were simple -- straight from the soul. They inspired me to open a word document on my nifty Lenovo notepad.

Hours before the day ended I got my first line, ‘All was still, when José started walking homeward.’ Line after line I pushed the story forward. Not knowing how or where the ideas were coming from, I built in character through Socratic dialogue with myself viz. Who was José? Why was he walking homeward? At what time? Who was at home waiting for him?

The story took its own shape. It possessed me and told itself.  I inhabited each character empathizing with his/her emotions. I wrote it non-stop.  Then I showed it to Queenie. We discussed it and the story took on a new tone, now from the female perspective. We changed the title, spotted some typos, and hunted for new names for the lead characters – ones that would suit the action of the story. My first story set in Bardez, was well-received at the workshop. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. It had the 3 P’s, viz. place, people and predicament.* Thank you Jessica!
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*www.storyinsight.com; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa  in the weekly feature 'On My Mind' on Sunday, 27 March 2016; Pix courtesy writestuff.todaysvisions(dot)com 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian! Am glad you enjoyed the workshop as much as I did. Hope to see more short stories from you. :)