There’s a story in every moment

You can sit on a plane or at a (boring) meeting and there may be a story lying in wait. All you have to do is turn, smile and talk to those around you. Every one has a story, has a phrase that sticks, has a tale to tell and places they’ve been. All you need to do is turn, smile and start talking. Do not be afraid to strike up a conversation with the ones near you. And above all, after asking, listen to what they have to tell and take note. You never know when that phrase would seem appropriate when you are writing conversation or laying down a plot.

There’s a story in every moment.

Too many times we try too hard to fomulate a great story. We labour over ideas that HAVE to be spectacular, mind blowing and out of this world. We fashion large words and create outlandish worlds to plant our single dimensional characters.

But stop and talk to those you meet on the bus or a plane or sitting at a coffee shop and you’ll gain a wealth of stories. Real stories with real people, living real lives with real problems and moving in real time. You then take on the role of scribe and thus, chronicle the lives of everyday people. It doesn’t have to be outlandish or spectacular, just honest and true.

Try it. talk to someone and listen to the story, yet untold.

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How to choose the RIGHT language to write a novel.

Let’s keep things simple. You want to write and you want to be published. So what language will you write in? It sounds like a dumb question and I can see some of you rolling your eyes and fidgeting in your seat; ready to flame my blog. But hear me out.

Language choice is a BIG decision, primarily because it can determine whether you would actually finish your novel/short story/article or love letter. Anyone can write, thats why we go to school. We learn to spell words and articulate our minds onto a medium called paper.

Yet, language will determine the feel of the story, the life of the story lies not in the writing itself (per say) but rather in the language used. Language determines the way the words are spoken by that invisible story teller, who sits in reading room of our mind and language moves us to think, to dream and to imagine.

Write in the language you think in.
If you think in Chinese, try writing in Chinese and so on so forth. Writing in the language you think creates flair in your stories. It just means, you have mastery over the language. By being a master of the language you can play with words and sentences and allow yourself to speak your mind. Remember, creative writing is about painting your mind onto a printed medium for people to read. Paint using the colors that you are sure of. Write in the language that you think in.

Now, there will come a time when you choose to write in a language you learnt..

Write in a foreign language if you want to reinvent yourself.
When I write in Bahasa Malaysia, my style changes. It becomes dead formal. My sentencing becomes rigid and it takes on an air of formality. Yet, when I do attempt to write in Bahasa Malaysia, I am not govern by the rules of the language because I don’t know them. My writing takes on a flair akin to a mad-man ranting away nonsenses. So, if I ever want to write in Bahasa Malaysia, it’ll probably be poetry or a compilation of short stories by inmates of the local asylum.

Write in the language you read in.
Writers are in part hugely influenced by what they read. We pick up a writer we love and in time our style matches them to a certain degree. We take on some of the way they sentence their words or speak their minds. My own style is (ironically) greatly influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of the Sherlock Holmes series, and lately by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman and Nicholas Sparks. These are the writers I read and they all write in English.

Write in the language you vocalize your stories in.
Writers need to be good story tellers. For example, imagine sitting in a coffee shop with your friends and it’s your turn to tell them your story. You need to grab their attention, keep them hooked, allow them to follow the story, allow them to experience the characters. This imagery is the one I keep in my mind when I write my short stories. I imagine I’m telling the story to a friend. This is what I deem the Voice of the Writer. Every writer has their own unique voice. It’s their fingerprint in the literacy world. We recognize each other by the way we speak on paper. So make it a point to try to translate how you vocalize your stories to people onto paper. Try to mimic the phrasing and sentencing onto paper and you’ll find that your writing has taken on a new dimension.

So why are you still reading this? Go write something.

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Knowing the ending helps the beginning.

I amuse my friends when I tell them that I write the ending of my stories before even knowing how it started. I write the end, write the beginning and then fill in the blanks. Often times the ending may change a little to suit how the story pan out but the core points remain the same.

This method works for me. It may not work for some but it works for me. It’s hard to write when you don’t have goals. Milestones to accomplish and without direction. Having the end in mind, points you in the direction you need to go. How you get there is what makes your story interesting. This method not only applies to writing novels or stories but also to scripts or dramas or even a final year thesis paper. Heck, even a love letter…

The end must have resolution. Answers to a question or your hero finding what he is seeking or your hero loosing something. There must be resolution. The beginning can have a question that your hero set out to answer. And the central premise of the story would be to have our hero take the adventure of his life, seeking the answer to his question.

Writing may not have to be so complicated and I hope this simple method makes things easier for you.

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Throw the blinds open, gain new insight. A writer’s need.

I’ve just moved into a new office at my workplace. New location, new department, it is a step up from my previous department. I now have the luxury of a bird’s eye view of my surroundings. It great to be on the fifth floor especially when the windows also substitute as a wall for your office. So I merely turn to my right and the view greets me. I love it. I needed it.

In life we need new experiences and views in order to move forward. There are times we get pigeon-holed in a particular location or within a certain mind-set. It is arresting and unhealthy. Situations like that will quickly push you into a state of decomposition. You rot and eventually die from being stagnant. We need new experiences to open up new mind-sets and thought patterns. And with new ideas come inspiration; the very energy a writer thrives on.

Having my fifth floor view energizes me into action. Opens my mind to ideas and inspires me to think differently. It motivates me to think along strange paths or paths least travelled by other writers. Explore subject matters, which none dare write about or create scenarios that defy conventional thinking.

Isn’t that the goal of writing?

To spur, to poke fun at established idea, to be the driver of iconoclastic motives? Writers should want their writings to create a sense of wonderment and thought among their readers. If your reader can have an opinion about your work, then you would have done your job well. You would have ignited a thought within them.

So throw your blinds open, see the world from a higher place or a lower place, and be inspired to write.

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Drawing from life experiences for story plots.

Writing is an art fairly dependent on your imagination, yet there are times imagination needs to be sparked into life. It is necessary that writers read and read anything that interest them. You never know how that bit of information about the sleeping habits of Amazonian otters could help out in your next spy thriller. Now before you start subscribing to National Geographic of Nature magazine, another source of inspiration is your own life experiences. Some writers may not agree with me on this one because it could lead to writing that is pompous and bordering on indulgence.

True. Writing from life experience can be inhibiting to the imagination because one can be locked into a plot that is linear. It is always better that one uses life experiences as a guide to a story. Life experiences can give the air of authenticity to the story. Give the story the sense of realism, that is often times missing in a tale. Conversations will sound real, actions logical and reactions will be seemingly recognizable by the reader.

But in using life experiences, one must make liberties to stretch the story a little. To add surprises to the tale. Surprise yourself even. Don’t be muzzled by the outcome of the experiences. Sometimes, in the story, the character may want a different outcome or may guide the plot in a direction totally different then what you know it should be.

Use life experiences but allow room for surprises. Happy writing!

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The Reclusive Writer

I am quick to admit that I am a very reclusive person. By nature I am painfully private about things in my life. There was a period in my life where I sought to fit in but that was as successful as trying to drown fish in water. I have since come back home to being the recluse that I am. Yet in being reclusive, intoxicated in my own reality, I find the well-spring of creativity. I imagine the lives of other people. Living and breathing the air of the characters that populate the world of my mind. It is a world undisturbed by the harsh reality of this world.

There is nothing bad about being shy about yourself. In looking myself, I realized that I have a lot of acquittances yet only a handful of close friends. People with whom I can be vulnerable with and comfortable to share my thoughts and ideas.

Yet it is in my own quiet retreat, I am able to write and spin the tales that flash within my head. I put on my beenie, wake up my iBook and type away. Some stories go unfinished, some take flight yet others remain empty pages waiting for another visit.

I sometimes shun writer gatherings for the very reason, I prefer to write alone. I am not saying writer groups are bad. No. By all means join one if you feel it would help your craft. All I am saying is, it may not work for me. I enjoy writing alone. In the comfort of my own thoughts and the quietness of my own space. Do what is best to express your craft. Don’t compromise on what makes you a writer.

If you are a reclusive writer like me, don’t worry. You are in good company.

Talent is crucial to good writing…sorry PERFECT writing.

I’ve met a lot of people who have express their desires to write. Their eyes light up when I tell them I write in my spare time, have a book out and regularly get my articles published on online newspapers and political opinionated websites in Malaysia. Glossy eye and spunky about the idea that people would read their writings they pursue the road I took. But not all roads are meant to be travelled by a bandwagon of wannabe writers.

My path to writing is unique to me. For everyday I spend writing, I had several years of practice. I did not get here by mere chance. I had to sweat it out and develop my own style and voice. I took to blogging in 2003 to better my writing skills. I needed to learn how to connect with an audience, write in words that inspire and move people and what better way than through blogging. From there I joined a writing group and practiced my writing there. I’ve written a short play and it was produced during my college days, written some really bad songs that are only worthy for my shower, poetry has been a dabble of mine since school days and only in the last two years have I seriously written short stories and full length features.

It took time and that is something all writers (good writers) have to go through. It takes time to polish one’s skills. There’s no shortcuts to being a good writer but if you want to be a PERFECT writer than you need Talent.

Let me say this over and over again. You need Talent to begin with. Some have it, some may not and this means not everyone is cut out to be a writer. Yes, you may have good writing skills but are you a storyteller? Can you capture the attention of an audience?

I learnt the traits of capturing the attention of the audience in my college days when I was part of the theatre group. I took to the stage and was a natural at it. From there I move on to writing for stage and essentially that’s where I learnt my strong point when it comes to writing stories – dialogue. The scene plays in my head like a play and I’m the omnipresent observer jotting down the details that I see. That’s my Talent. This is why I can write.

I met this wannabe writer who wrote a management book and he wanted to branch out into fiction. I read his draft and I told him to stick to writing management books. And he had the knack to tell me he lack creativity. How can you write fiction without being creative?

Talent is inherent in all writers. They write because that is the only thing they can do. We write because the moment you put a pen/keyboard before us, we start fidgeting and all rile up. We want to express ourselves, we want to tell the world what we see in our minds eye. We are picky about words and sentences and prose and how someone would say something. We listen in on conversations at coffee shops and watch people go about life, taking notes of what’s going on. We are loners and thinkers and philosophers and emotional wrecks (after a good movie) and all the while we want to write it down.

Talent is crucial to PERFECT writing. You either have it or not. I hate to bust your bubble but clearly, if your friends tell you your writing is like S*#T then please take up another hobby. Fishing or kite flying or planting roses. Anything else except writing a novel and thinking you’ll make a million out of it. Honestly, I don;t write for the money. I write because all my life I knew I would write and I just want people to hear what I have to say.

Have a reality check and ask yourself whether you’ve got TALENT to write.

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