Stories and storytellers were once thought to be imbued by magic. They were called during calamitous times to make peace with offended spirits and again in times of prosperity to keep the spirits happy. There is something truly magical about a well-told story that makes you leave your world behind even if for some hours. Its magical to read a line like- ‘it was the best of times. It was the worst of times…..’ or something like ‘it begins, as most things begin, with a song.’*
Stories reigned supreme in times when books were not plentiful. Now, that there are books and the net we have lost touch with stories, but that’s ok, for there will always be enough to keep it going for the next turn when they reign again. It’s a cycle. Just like no one knows what keeps a cycle going no one knows what makes a story magical, though we all have opinions on it.
Dramas, plays, movies are the mediums. The story is king. Yet what is there in a story that makes it so different from the anecdote Uncle Pain used to tell? The anecdote that went so:
“Yesterday I was driving down to my office when I saw an astonishing thing. You know that crossing where the beggars come. Well, they didn’t come yesterday and though I had nicely locked the car and put the windows up for you remember that case in Mumbai Mirror where three beggars kidnapped a person in broad daylight. Well, anyway I looked around and they were all sitting in a group further down the road eating cake!! Can you imagine that! It must be one of theirs birthday, but still cake from that begging money? When they can use that money to send their children to school.”
No matter how hard Uncle Pain tries that is not a story. That will never be magical. Now listen to this.
PS: Its in Hindi
Many writers and educators have dissected good stories and have come up with a blueprint for a great story. If you check on Google you will find them. Its like good music, starts with a slow hum, builds up expectations, gets you involved, spins the characters around, plays with their emotions and yours and finally lets you off in a dazzling climax. A few more uplifting tones carry on after the climax to make the story seem more believable.
I went to a story writing class and that’s the crux of what was said. What was left unsaid was the understanding of characters, the slow and almost tedious development of a story and the long confusing hours as you develop situations and paths for the characters only to have them walk another way. Yes, there are courses for them and people teach it, but I think someone said this for acting, and I am borrowing it for writing too
It cannot be taught, but it can be learnt.
Its hard work to create magic but it’s the work I like. Then again, maybe I am bewitched by it.
* The quotes are from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman