An Amateur Writer’s Blah Blah on Writing :)

“I think the writer has to be responsible to signs and dreams. If you don’t do anything with it, you lose it.” – Joy Williams

I didn’t get any particular sign or dream as such. Just a lot of complaints from my sister. And, maybe, one article which could possibly have been a sign – On Not Writing.

Whenever I resume blogging, I also make an effort to catch up on posts by bloggers I like/follow and the Freshly Pressed posts. Apart from giving me a sense of getting back on track, it also leads me onto thoughts I want to write about. One such post which I read (the last time I resumed blogging) was Finding your writing voice over at Wanton Creation. The reason for being drawn to it was: I had had the same line of thought and was planning to blog about it (which never happened, alas!). So, I was surprised to see a post on the same topic, with similar thoughts!

There is something I always notice when I read articles or blog-posts – the writing style. Even though I must have been doing it all along, it’s something that I realized very recently. It might be my passion for writing or maybe, just something I’ve grown to do as a result of my reading. Whatever maybe the reason, I’ve come to realize that the first thing I notice and appreciate about a piece of writing is the writing style, the way in which the writer has put forth his views. Also, I believe, that is what helps maintain my interest in the piece. However interesting a concept might be, I cannot bear to read on if I don’t like the way it’s written. Once I realized this, I was curious. Curious about what exactly led me to like a particular way of writing, what factors I looked for in a piece…and most importantly, what was my writing style, how would I judge it, how do people judge it? The latter’s a thought for another day, though.

It’s not easy to write something that engages a reader till the end. And it’s definitely not easy to make it good enough to leave a mark on the reader’s mind or provoke them to think about it. So, then, what draws a person to read a certain piece of writing (Note: I’m not talking about books here)? Let me list out 5 qualities in writing that do the trick for me:

1) Humour – It works every single time. Use humour to present your concept/thought and I bet it will get through to your readers. It works splendidly for me!

2) Simple yet compelling language – I would never want to read something that is filled with complex or generally unused words. That’s not to say I’d like something plainly written either. Attaining that balance between simple and compelling language  is tricky but I believe that is what could reach out to readers. On that note, let me also add : grammatical & spelling mistakes are a firm turn-off when it comes to reading something. (Not that I’m perfect at it!)

3) Keeping it personal – Now, this is a factor that ALWAYS draws me to a piece of writing – the writer’s ability to connect to the reader by maintaining a certain personal touch. Instead of an article that is completely factual and impersonal, I’d opt for something that has a personal element, an article wherein the writing seems to communicate to me, engaging me in what the writer is saying. In short, I should be able to feel that the writer is talking to me through the piece.

4) Short and sweet –  Never mind the ‘sweetness’, but I certainly do prefer articles that aren’t too long. It isn’t really about having time to read it. For me, it’s more about whether a long article will be able to hold my attention, whether it will be worth the effort. More often that not, I have strayed off halfway through a long article and just skimmed through the rest of it. So, the phrase “short and sweet” is highly relevant to me.

5) Flow of Writing – The way the concept is developed from one paragraph to another or, in simple words, the flow of writing is another factor that helps in maintaining my interest in an article. Disconnected or disrupted flow of thoughts usually make me leave halfway through the piece.

So, those are the 5 elements of writing style that capture my interest in an article.

What are yours? Do care to share.

The Saleem Sinai effect :)

I thought it’s time I took a look at my blog, blew off the dust that must have gathered and maybe get it back in shape. Also, since it’s vacation and I’m practically jobless, it’s not like I can give the “I’m busy” excuse and ask my ‘inner voice’ to shut up every time it points at my blog and asks me to do something about it. And with some friends who keep asking me to blog, I hardly had an option.

To be honest, I can’t really think of anything much to blog about. So, to get myself back into the flow, I thought I would just write about the book I read last. I started reading ‘Midnight’s Children’ sometime by February end and, much to my relief and happiness, finished it a few days ago! Finally! It’s very slow, and boring, at times. I felt it had a lot of unnecessary details and digressions. If I were to read it again, I doubt I would be patient enough to finish it. But did I like it? YES! Would I recommend it to you? YES!

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Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a book that was adjudged the ‘Booker of Bookers’ – the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first twenty-five years – in 1993. When I started reading it, I was curious. I wanted to know what made this book so great that it was given the Booker of Bookers title. As I progressed, I was confused. By the time I finished it, I wasn’t bothered. Whatever might have been the reason [for the award], whatever it might or might not have won, I loved it. I don’t know if it makes sense but I have a kind of bond with every book I read. Maybe not with the books I didn’t like. But with most other books, I do. Inspite of the way it irritated and frustrated me, I think I have ‘bonded’ with this book. And that’s what is important to me, as a reader.

Coming to the book, one point I strongly felt is regarding the implied focus of the book and its actual one. The title and the blurb/outline on the back cover lead you to believe this book is about the Midnight’s Children. My friend was reading this book before me and once, when I asked her how it was going, she said, “I reached Book Two (the book is divided into three parts) and yet, nothing seems to be happening.” I didn’t understand what she meant but once I started reading, I did. If you read this book, thinking it’s about Midnight’s Children, you might end up being very much disappointed. Because Midnight’s Children is just a part of it. Not even a major part, I’m afraid.

This book truly and totally belongs to Saleem Sinai, the narrator and protagonist, born on the exact moment of India’s independence, (and as a result, gifted with extraordinary powers). It is Saleem’s biography; one which he writes, and at the same time, narrates to his ‘mighty pickle-woman’, Padma. Saleem irritates, frustrates, confuses you just as much as he evokes your interest, moves you to laughter or tears and creates a place for himself in your mind. He can go on with his elaborate thoughts that are way too detailed and end up getting on your nerves. There have been many instances when I felt, “Why can’t he just shut up and get on with the story?” But then, that is how Saleem is, and after awhile, you get used to it…and the next time, you will be prepared for his rant. He digresses way too much but he is also adept (super-adept!!) at keeping you hooked (throwing in interesting bits about what lies ahead). He is one hell of a writer-narrator, I must say! I know it’s Rushdie who should be appreciated but, well, I think I’m too attached to Saleem to realize the difference. [And, anyway, when I appreciate Saleem, it’s basically Rushdie I’m talking about, in an indirect way]

Like I said, it’s Saleem’s biography. And he relates it in a very detailed way, including very minute facts. You get to know absolutely everything, right from the details of his grandfather’s marriage, his parents’ life before his birth, all the ‘unspeakable’ acts he committed, the people who changed his life, so on…until his death. I’d be surprised if you have ever read a biography more detailed than Saleem’s. And, I forgot an important part. Saleem, being connected to India by his birth, relates the country’s historical and major events in a parallel manner. Which is brilliant, I think! The work of a genius, in fact. The writing style is kind of unconventional (different would be an understatement) but I loved it, nevertheless.

I’ve grown to love the character and am so attached to him (obviously, I know, literally, everything about him!!). So, well, I could go on. If you intend to read this book at some point, go ahead. I hope you will have the patience it demands and love it as much as I did. Only advice I’d give is: Don’t read it for Midnight’s Children; read it for Saleem.

This is the most favourite quote from the book. I think it kind of defines the book, and Saleem, as well. And what I loved most about it is the strikingly beautiful truth it talks about.

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