October 6, 2013

The story sometimes writes itself

Dear M,

I have often heard from other authors (and also experienced several times) about the story writing by itself. Oh, I don't mean the writer doesn't have to actually put the pen to the paper (or finger to the keyboard), but even with our best preparations and understanding of the plot, sometimes the story gets ahead of us. I wondered if it was my problem alone, but when I listened to other writers, I realised that it was a global thing.

It happens like this. We send our lead characters to a dangerous place where rowdies and thugs crowd around them and mock them and terrify them. Then we want them to fight their way through or play some trick on the goondas or find some secret passageways and escape through them, that's our plan. Then, as we are writing in intense concentration, we write (not knowing where that came from, it was not part of the original script) that the girl (one of our leads) bumps into a young and good-looking goonda and he develops a soft spot for her (or maybe he knew her in his childhood, à la Bollywood) and he lets her escape. Oh yeah, so much easier than fighting or fooling a set of tough guys. The story just goes that way more smoothly than the complicated plot we had planned. (This example was probably not good, but that's all I could come up with. But trust me, it happens to all writers.)

It is not bad when our story does that, you know. It just means that the new path the story takes is more convincing or real than the one we had hatched up. We would know what it's going to be like only when our vulnerable leads are right there in the middle of a scene. And then they just carry on, not waiting for us to catch up, not bothering to see what we, the directors, have scripted for them. We scamper after them, picking our pen and paper and keyboard, and note what they are trying to do, modifying the script on the fly.

The result turns out to be much better than the one we had prepared, and makes us wonder who the real author was.


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