It was absolutely wonderful to read all the entries from in the LOL writing contest. It’s hard to pick one because talent is everywhere, but we finally managed to pick one! The winner is Kiran Gandhi for his story ‘The Lover Dilemma’. You can read his story here.
Your story is the winning entry of the contest. Please tell us more about it, and its inspiration.
The story was not written in English originally. It was written as a script for a Malayalam short-film some of us friends were planning to make. The project never took off and when I saw the LOL writing contest I felt the thread could make a nice little short story.
While planning the story my idea was to have something where the humor is mostly through dialogues. It has elements of skit in it as well. Some of the humor only Malayalis can understand. So the trick was to make it appealing for all while writing it in English.
Love failure is a common topic and my inspiration was to show it in a different light. I felt there is a lot of scope for humor if a character like my protagonist decided to enlist the help of a wacky therapist to help with his heart-break.
Do you have any particular rules or rituals you follow as a writer?
There is no particular rule or ritual per se. For me writing doesn’t come that easily. I believe that’s the case with most writers. I never sit down and decide to write something right off the bat. An idea has to come first and then it will be minimized in a corner of my head. It slowly develops and I decide on a rough outline for the story. It’s only when I cannot hold it in any longer that I start to write.
As for writing I am very circumspect and like to be alone when I write. If there are people moving around or talking I find it hard to write. So usually I write when I am alone in my room.
What role does humour play in your writing? Do you think its essential?
A big role. Humor is something that comes naturally to me and I always try to include it in my writing. Even if the story is a serious one I will find a way to include some black humor atleast. I feel humor is a great tool to send across a message without appearing to be preaching.
I think humor is very essential, especially in times like these. It feels like we are getting offended very easily. It will be a good thing to have a sense of humour and be able to appreciate the works which provide light comic relief.
What got you interested in becoming a writer? Where do you go for inspiration?
It was during my college days that I realised I can put my thoughts across more easily when I write. It was also during that time I started watching English movies and began to see English in a new light. It was like i developed a new love for the language. I started writing some small stuffs on paper and showed to my friends who were avid readers. They liked what I wrote and their encouragement made me believe in myself.
I actually never go anywhere for inspiration but wait for inspiration to come to me. It has worked well so far in my experience too. I have realised that I work well when given a prompt. Twitter is a great place for budding writers and it has a very vibrant writing community. I take part in those twitter prompts and sometimes they provide inspiration for bigger stories.
I also find serendipitous inspiration from everyday conversations. It may be something someone said casually but suddenly a light bulb goes off in your head and you get the idea for a story. Also travelling in a KSRTC bus (the state transport bus of Kerala) has thrown off a fair share of inspiration for me.
What’s that one piece written by you which is your all-time favourite?
It’s a short story called ‘Reverse Swing’. It’s a humorous story about how a son recycles an old loveletter written by his father. And cricket forms the backdrop and there is a lot of cricketing terms used in the story as well. It was my first story to get any recognition and so it will always have a special place in my heart.
Your bestselling authors and books list. Why do they make it to your list?
I don’t know about bestselling but I will share some of my favourites. I must confess that I am not an avid reader.
Khaled Hosseini is one I like very much. He successfully captures all the nuances of the unrelenting Afghan landscape and its people in his works. A Thousand Splendid Suns is my favourite. The Kite Runner comes a close second.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird and J D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye are also in my list. The subject of Mocking Bird is a powerful one and Lee manages to build the tension at the right pace. I liked the narration style of Catcher in the Rye and often wonder why it was considered a controversial book.
I like retelling of mythology and there are quite a few favourites in that genre. V S Khandekar’s Yayati, Shivaji Sawant’s Karnan (Malayalam translation of Marathi novel ‘Mrityunjaya’) M T Vasudevan Nair’s Randamoozham, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Palace of Illusions, K M Munshi’s Madhurapuri are some of them.
O V Vijayan’s ‘Khazakinte Ithihasam’ is an all-time classic and it gives you something new with every re-reading. N S Madhavan’s short-story Higuita is another where the narrative style is so smooth that you can imagine the visuals easily. Subhash Chandran’s ‘Manushyanu oru aamukham’ is a brilliant work where he tells the story of different generations in a family.
It’s hard to compile a list and I am sure I might have missed out on many good works.
Any writing tips you’d like to share with fellow writers?
I don’t think I am qualified enough to give any tips. But I believe that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to writing. The key is to be persistent. There will be a lot of rejections and demoralizing stuffs. But we shouldn’t lose heart. We have to believe in the story we have to tell and believe that no one else can tell it the way we can. It’s a good thing to have the company of fellow writers, reading their work and getting their feedback on yours can help improve your craft.
Also follow Shashi Tharoor on twitter irrespective of your political leanings. It’s an easy way to help build our vocabulary.