Scriptwriting on my mind

When I was in college and university, I was active in the theatre groups and did time on stage myself, but what has always appealed to me was script-writing. This is evident in my everyday writing as I tend to have strong dialogues in my stories.

But I have always been hesitant in making the leap from writing articles and stories to scripts. A leap to some but to me, its like the cow jumping over the moon.

Yet, it has been on my mind lately. So the question I posing here is, how do one make the leap into script-writing in general and also for the Malaysian market?

Post your answers in the comments.

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In order to write, start writing.

A dear friend called me up and told me, she couldn’t seem to get into the “groove” for writing. There always seems to be a distraction that throws her off writing. I sympathize with her because she has come across something writers all over face.

The dreaded, “How to start writing?” or “I need the feel of writing” condition.

It’s not writer’s block, because you do have an idea of what you want to write and accomplish. Yet, how do you get into the “groove” or “feel” of writing.

Just start writing. Write. Anything. Just write anything that comes to mind. Pick up a piece of paper and write. Even if it’s a shopping list. Just write. Doodle if you need to but you need to jump-start the coordination between thought-fingers-words. You need to form that connection again.

This is why, in the lull between writing my books, I post blog entries (twice a day – when possible) or contribute articles to a news portal. The whole idea is to keep on writing something, even if it’s a short piece. I want to keep the connection between my mind-fingers-words constantly open and ever ready to produce sentences.

Of course you have to couple this with reading. Read as much as you can and then write and keep on writing on a regular basis.

This is the only way I can think off to jump back into the groove. The longer you have been out of the groove, the harder it seems. But the moment you are in the groove, you tend to stay there until you decide to slack and jump out of it.

So start writing my friend.

Emo-centric writer at heart.

My friends laugh cause I take up my day, listening to “emo-songs” and posting my findings on FaceBook. It helps my writing. Stephen King listens to heavy metal when he writes and Mitch Albom plays in a band. Writers express themselves through their writings but draw strength and inspiration from the things they love. For me, it’s emotional Indonesian or Korean love songs. I love the music videos that accompany these songs cause it tells the story and they are great sources for stories.

What these songs do is generate the “What if?” questions and these questions spark the quest for an answer and the telling of a story. Stories and plots can be driven by the quest for an answer and I see this pattern in Paulo Coelho’s books.

So it could be horror movies, baking cakes, eating burgers by the roadside or just listening to big-band music. If it’s inspires you to write the stories you enjoy writing, so be it. Whatever that inspires you to write use it to your advantage and make it your strength.

Happy writing!

Train Man..sweet story

I just finished reading a book called Train Man. I bought it some time last year and only now I have gotten round to reading it and boy, did I miss something. It is a sweet, sweet book. It is a story that would make you smile and realize fairy tales do happen in the real world.

There is an online version of the story available here: http://www.rinji.tv/densha/

Densha Otoko, or ‘Train Man’ is the name of a very popular book published in Japan in early 2005, which tells the true story of a nerdy guy who falls in love with a girl who he saved from a drunk on a train. This entire story takes place on a Japanese bulletin board system called 2ch, or ‘ni-channel’, particularly in a thread called ‘Men Being Shot from Behind’, where single men get together and gripe about being single.

In typical Japanese fashion, after the tremendous success of the book, both a movie version and a TV drama series were released. ‘Densha Otoko’ is really the “it” book of 2005 for Japan. It’s a really great story and I hope that this translation helps you enjoy it, too.

I’ve heard of writers publishing their blog entries in the form of books but this is the first time I’ve come across a book that is comprise of forum postings. The replies from the other netizens are funny, ridiculous yet honest. It’s not scripted. Not plotted. Train Man is a simple story but what makes it special is the sense of community. You become part of the group, rooting for Train Man as he pursues his lady, Hermes. You are drawn into their discussions and at times you would disagree with them yet you see the fun side of things.

Give it a try and you’ll see why I am still smiling when I think of the book.

Depression and this Writer

I never thought I would fall into this state of mind but it happened. I was depressed and this was the reason I had turned cold towards my writing. I did not know it was depression and instead blamed other factors such as work, commitments and people as the reason to why I couldn’t sit down long enough to write a sentence. Yes, within the period of depressive foggy-ness, I did managed to churn out several short stories (most appearing on this blog) but my main project merely sat on the sideline.

Depression hits for no reason and your mind just fogs over and your motivation to do the things you love just evaporates, leaving you with this perpetual sense of emptiness. In the end, you feel as if you are merely a shell and life has ebbed it’s way to the twilight zone. Nothing seems right, you become sensitive and needy. Needy for attention or someone to understand but you full well know no-one can fully understand the state of mind of a depressive person. My mind and heart were locked in a bind of negativity. Nothing seemed positive and optimism became a curse word.

There were evenings I spent walking in my backyard, devoid of thoughts and merely walking. I viewed things with an emptiness, a detachment from what was real or fantasy. In this state, plants looked alive and the world just seemed a shade of gray. It was bad.

Yet, I knew all this and I am glad I had friends I could just talk to. People I could open up to and vent. And I also had my writing. I realized the most passionate of my writings were done when I was in this state of clawing myself out of my emotional black-hole. The stories were real and the emotions raw. Sometimes our very weakness is the source of our greatest strength. Our insanity is the root of our creativity, the source of the logic for which we write about and our readers get transported to.

In my depression, I wrote about the need for love, the strength of hope and the desperation of one who has reached their end. Maybe it’s good for me to walk in that dark alley called depression, if only to gain the stories but not to dwell in it.

Am I out of my depression? I don’t know because its a part of me, yet I know I can keep it in check and continue to write with passion due to it.

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I’ll Come To You – Short Story

I’ll Come To You

by Maclean Patrick

It was a cold breeze blowing against her exposed arm that woke her from her slumber. She forgot where she was, thinking it was her cold apartment back in the suburbs of Kuching, Malaysia where she would be having her afternoon nap, tucked away underneath the checkered blanket her mum gave her for her birthday. Instead she opened her eyes and found herself stuck in between a gunnysack of potatoes and four crates of green cans marked HEINEKEN. She pulled her shawl up, covering her bare arm and shook the cold away by giving her arm a good rub. She had taken off her jacket the moment she stepped into the back of the truck and used it as a pillow as she slept, seated upright against the truck.

The agonizing climb by the old Soviet era army truck had come to a halt. They were stranded midway up a slope on a mountain road in the middle of nowhere. She could hear the driver cursed into the wind and telling everyone to disembark, he promptly whipped out a can of beer, unceremoniously taken from one of the crates of HEINEKEN. Her trip in the truck was over. A puff of white mist alerted her to the other person in the truck seated across from her. He looked worried as he rested his backpack against the side of the truck and adjusted the shoulder straps. He gave her a nod and smiled nervously.

She sighed, pulled her hair back, grabbed hold of her backpack, jumped off the truck, kicking gray dust as her feet landed on the lonely mountain road. She stood there and took a moment to survey where they had stop. The Himalayan range was towering majestically in the distance. Without cloud cover, K2 and Everest jutted out like misshaped dark blue fangs piercing a clear blue sky. She was standing facing the ceiling of the world but she did come to climb them, it suffice enough for her to merely admire them from a distance and take a single picture with her battered CANON camera.

It was not the best place to be stranded considering the fact; help would take weeks to reach them. But all along she had relied on help to get her this far. She saved up and borrowed money for the plane-ticket, weaved her way through the maze of train-lines in India and made her way up to Nepal. By pure chance she had met a Sherpa on his way home from climbing Everest headed in the direction she was heading. They had hitched a ride on an old supply truck heading up towards the small village where the little school, she had hope to reach by early afternoon, was situated.

An old man walked by her and smiled. Toothless and broad face, he studied her face and nodded. A tattered dust covered coat clung to his body and he had a multicolored cloth bag slung over his right shoulder from where he took out prayer beads. In small courteous steps he walked towards her and stood next to her and again offered her a toothless smile.

Have I met you before or is this merely a warm gesture shared by strangers walking in a common direction?

He gestured towards the Twin Mountains in the distance and with prayer beads in hand he clasped his weathered hands together and started to pray. She did not understand a word of his mantra yet she felt a profound peace sweep over her and as he prayed she heard the chiming of tiny bells. Bells, tiny bells tingling, she looked around her yet saw nothing that could make the sound she heard. She turned once more to face the old man but he was now gone. She was standing alone before the Twin Mountains on a lonely mountain road. She walked a short distance down the dirt road but only saw boulders, more empty dusty road and no old man with the prayer beads.

He couldn’t have gone far…wait…

She stepped nervously to the edge of the dirt road where the ground drops in a sharp incline towards a river on the valley floor.

Surely the old man did not jump?!?

The hairs on the back of her neck stood and a cold chill, colder than the Himalayan air, went up her spine.

Mountain Spirit?

“Anna, we will need to walk from here. Driver say truck no good,” the man with rosy cheeks called out to her.

“Ok…Oni. You lead the way,” Anna replied.

Oni nodded and wondered what his charge was doing standing at the edge of the road looking down at the valley floor. He whistled to her and pointed up the slope and started walking. Anna looked over to Oni and obediently followed his lead, leaving the truck behind her. So the caravan of two, a stocky, small sized Sherpa with rosy cheeks followed by a lanky, tall woman with tousled hair, made their way up the dusty dirt road accompanied by the faint chiming of tiny bells.

“How far to go?” Anna asked as they rounded a bend at the top of the hill.

“Two miles. Pass old stupa on hill and down into valley,” Oni answered more than he was asked. Maybe it was an unspoken rule of Nepal, to answer more than asked. Economy of words, the more you pack into a sentence, less breath needed to make long explanations.

Anna smiled and maintained her pace, timing her steps in line with the ones Oni took. Oni was a head shorter than Anna yet his pace was twice hers and with much effort she labored to match his pace. The thin mountain air did not auger well for Anna, causing her to huff and puff with every step as the two maintained a steady march, their hiking shoes kicking dust as they navigated their way down the mountain slopes while the sag of their backpacks cut into their skin as they walked hunch-backed up the accompanying slopes. She eventually had to call out to him to stop and allow her to rest.

“You get tired very easily,” Oni said as they sat on the top of a large boulder by the dirt road.

“I have had no rest for the past three weeks.”

“You travelled a lot?” Oni asked as he scratched his head and ruffled his thin hair.

“Yes, from my hometown all the way here. I’ve only stop to sleep and eat.”

“You are in big hurry?”

“Yes, he would be waiting for me.”

“Ah…your man waiting for you?”

Anna managed a chuckled, “Not my man…my best friend. I have brought something for him from home.”

Oni sat up, jotted by something that had cross his mind, “Your friend…his name is Ee Van?”

Anna smiled, “Yes, his name is Evan.”

A broad smile lighted up Oni’s face, “We have same friend. He is also my friend. You must be Annabel?”

“Just call me Anna,” she replied. “Evan told you about me?”

“He say his friend would come to visit. He always happy when he tell me about you.”

“Really?”

Oni did not reply but just looked at her. Studying the lines on her face and the way her hair fell round the oval face that framed her brown eyes. He turned away and stared at the mountains.

“He very fond of you especially when talking to you on phone. I visit him one night, the night he talk to you on phone. He happy. Always looking at picture on his desk. The two of you together. He say picture was taken before he left and he waiting for you to come visit.”

Anna bit her lip as she held back her thoughts and her tears.

“He waiting for you. Good you come. He happy.”

“I know. I should come earlier but I couldn’t.”

Oni turned to face her and smiled warmly, “You love Evan?”

Anna sat up and turned her gaze away. The question was blunt and direct and out of the blue and to a certain extent she felt embarrassed. This Tibetan knew more than he should and had the nerve to pry into how she felt towards Evan. After all the years she and Evan have been friends never once did she consider how she felt towards him beyond the nuance of normal friendship. Yet as she made this journey to seek him, she had time to reflect on how she really felt. To finally confront her true feelings and Oni’s question was not out of place but rather most appropriate. What motivated her to be here in the first place? What pushed her to go the extra mile to see this journey to completion?

Anna, why are you here?

They had met casually, he had been a team-leader for a school project group and she had asked for his help. She cannot remember what the problem was but one thing lead to another and eventually they became committed friends. He had a subtle, quiet quality in his character that cushioned her impulsive nature. She had to admit, he was her emotional punching bag. Putting up with her tumultuous personal life and demands. Her life was a chaotic mess where the only constant was Evan, her strong, silent and gentle friend.

Again, she heard the chiming if tiny bells carried on the mountain breeze. Only this time Oni seemed to hear it too and directed his attention towards the hill before them.

“Prayer flags,” he said reverently.

He slid off the boulder and gestured to Anna to do the same. Anna followed and the two walked briskly up the hill and as they cross over the crest, she saw them. Hundreds of white, red, yellow, triangular prayer flags on long poles gathered round a derelict stupa, fluttering in the wind.

“Each flag is written with a prayer and the prayer would be taken to heaven by the blowing mountain wind. I think someone put bells on one of them,” Oni said.

“They are beautiful,” Anna pointed towards the stupa. “What do they pray for?”

“Many things. Healing, prosperity, hope, love. People pray for many things. Heaven listens to prayers.”

“Evan told me,” Anna whispered as she gazed on the sight of hundreds of flags, “If you pray here, heaven listens to your prayers.”

“He say to me also,” Oni said. “He very good man. Heaven listen to him.”

“Yes.”

“Huh?”

“Yes. I love him and I come here to tell him.”

“Then heaven heard his prayer,” Oni looked up to the sky and smiled. “He will say the same thing to you.”

“Don’t you think it’s too late?”

“He understands.”

Anna took her time taking pictures of the prayer flags. It is not often you could see Tibetan prayer flags in their true element. She had noticed some in Kuching but they were transplanted there by some Tibetan Buddhist and though beautiful, they did not flutter in the wind. In a way, it defeated the purpose for the prayer flags if they did not have wind to blow on them and here in the Himalayans, the flags were in full glory. Fluttering away in the wind on the roof of the world carrying the prayers of Tibetans towards the mountains where their gods lived.

A tap on her shoulder from Oni reminded Anna that it was time to leave the flags and head to her final destination. It was getting dark and Oni seemed anxious. The night brought out bandits and two were no match against a gang of desperate robbers.

The two made their way swiftly down the hill and finding the dirt road again, they followed it until they caught sight of the little houses of the town, sticking out like little white boxes scattered among black granite and bordered by trees to the east and the mountains to the north. The white walls of the buildings shimmered gold, bathed by rays of the setting sun. A small stream cut along the south end and ran through its centre feeding the villagers and keeping the life-stock fit and well. It was peaceful and serene just as Evan had described it to her. He had made it his home and now she would too.

“Beautiful?” Oni asked, walking alongside her as they walked down the road towards the edge of the village.

“Yes. Exactly as he told me.”

 

He led her to the school and the happy caretaker welcomed them. They could finally rest and drink hot tea. The school was a modest wooden building, with white walls and blue shuttered windows. It served as part school, part community centre for the village. Everything from dental clinics to sewing classes was organized within its four walls. There was also a yard where the children could play soccer or just run in the dirt and where Anna imagined Evan must have taught the children to play basketball.

Anna could understand why Evan loved the place. He had made his first trip to Nepal as a teenager, part of a group of young men and women looking for opportunities to serve improvised communities. He was the only one from that group of thirty who took the challenge a step ahead and set up the school. It was a project he was enthusiastic about, it was the one thing that would bring a twinkle to his eye each time it came round as a topic for discussion. Anna remembered those discussions, Evan had the knack of bringing up the topic of the school in every conversation he had with people.

Initially, she had found it embarrassing but eventually, seeing how passionate he was about it, it dawned upon her that he had found meaning to his life. This was his life’s work, to help a small community on the roof of the world. This was his life’s song and it was a song he sang loud and clear.

It was their last chat on the phone that had prompted her to make the trip to the school.

“I’m sending it via email, if I could get this darn satellite phone to work properly. You would receive it by tomorrow. Now remember what I told you to do with the file? Check the page setup, it should be B5, so the formatting doesn’t go haywire.”

“Don’t worry, Evan. I’ll get it done. I’ve done it before, remember? So leave it to me.”

“Ok, I trust you. Remember; make a copy of the file. This is the final draft. I may have only one shot at sending it whole. There’s a freak storm blowing into this area in a couple of days.”

Anna rolled her eyes, “I’ve got it covered. Ok? So when are you coming back?”

“I’m not sure but probably by next week.”

“And if you can’t?”

“Anna, I will come to you. I will.”

Anna gripped the phone, “Well, if you can’t, then I’ll go to you.”

“You would? Great! You would love it here. Just come. I’ll be here.”

She could hear him chuckle over the phone, happy that she would make an effort to visit him and it felt right. It felt right that she would come to him. For that night after the phone call as she lay in bed, underneath the checkered blanket her mum gave her for her birthday, Anna started to cry for she began to realized how much she missed him. Missed his face, missed his smile, missed the way she felt when he gazed into her eyes when he had something to tell her. She felt a twitching in her, a hollow feeling at the very thought he was so far from her. She had been a fool, afraid to really admit the fact.

Yes, I love you Evan. I’ve always loved you. I’ve come to you and I just want you to know how much you mean to me.

 

“Anna?”

“Yes?” It was Oni.

“Ready?”

“Yes, let’s go.”

 

A crooked old tree stood atop a hill, adjacent to the school. It’s branches ravaged by countless blizzards, it’s bark scarred yet it stood strong and resilient. It was here that Oni lead Anna to and in the cool of the evening as the sun set and cast a golden shade across everything on the land, it was here that Evan waited for her.

It was here that Anna journey would come to an end.

“It’s beautiful,” Anna turned towards Oni, who stood silent next to her.

The Twin Mountains before them and the village behind them, all could be seen from their vantage point. The green of the trees and grass and shimmering waters of the stream beautifully balanced the cold dark blue and white of the mountains.

“Evan’s favorite place.”

Anna nodded and taking a small book from the sling bag she was carrying, she bent forward and placed it at the base of the tree.

“Evan, I’m here and you would have wanted this,” she said, running her fingers over the name carved onto the tree trunk.

EVAN PAUL

“I’m sorry. I should have come earlier. I should have been here with you and I could have told you how I feel. Your book is ready; I brought a copy for you. Now, the world would know about your work here. How you’ve made a difference in people’s lives. I should have told you earlier but I was too afraid to say it. I love you. Love you all this time. I should have told you earlier.”

Oni turned to Anna and gently placed his hand on her shoulder, “Evan loved you too. Very much.”

“Then what fools we have been. We should have told each other. We should have just let each other know.”

“Anna, there are times two people can be in love with each other, bring great happiness to each other and complete each other without having to say one word. Their hearts and souls are in love even when they would believe they are just best friends. They don’t have to be a couple to be in love. The act of being there for one another, being strong when the other is weak or hurting when the other is hurt shows the depth of their love. It is a love as strong as the mountains yet are fluid as the stream. It is a love that is a mystery in itself. It is highly prized but only comes to a select few.”

Anna tucked a stray hair behind her ears and wiped her cheeks. Life was funny, in a serendipitous way she had found what she had longed for all her life. Someone to love yet she did not noticed he was right under her nose and when she finally decided to confront how she really felt, she had lost him forever.

“I’m here now and I believe Evan would have wanted me to carry on his work. To bear his passion and share the love he had for the people he helped,” she said softly.

“Evan would watch over you. His prayers are in the wind of the mountains and the winds blow strong. His prayers will always be with you. He will always be with you.”

Anna nodded and gaze lovingly at the tree where her best friend’s name was carved. Here under the tree, laid the man she loved, the one she had cried for the day she heard he had been killed in an accident on the mountain road they had walked along that very day. Here laid the man who found his place among the mountains and in her heart; he would have been overjoyed to see her there.

“I’ve come to you. Evan, I’ve come to you,” Anna whispered, while the mountain air blew against her face, her eyes closed and cheeks wet with tears and in the distance you can hear the fluttering of a prayer flag and the chiming of tiny bells.

 

THE END