I’m a member of a number of writing groups and there’s one question I’ve noticed newbie writers ask – what do I write about, or what makes a good story?
Well, I won’t get into the definitions of what is a story, but I’ll try and explain it as best as I can with an example.
Amit, Sumit and Rohini were college mates. Rohini married Amit and they shifted to Bangalore. 10 years later Sumit came to Bangalore and met Amit and Rohini. They had a 6-year old daughter. They reminisced their college days over drinks and dinner and then Sumit left.
Is that a story? Seems rather like an innocuous incident. Now if you were to expand these 5 sentences, you can describe that interesting incident. But something is missing, isn’t it?
Now look at this:
Amit, Sumit and Rohini were college mates. Rohini married Amit and they shifted to Bangalore. 10 years after their graduation, Sumit landed in bangalore and met Amit and Rohini and their 10-year old daughter, Gia. While reminiscing their college days over drinks and dinner, Amit and Sumit were laughing and giving hi-5s but Rohini was subdued. She replied to Sumit’s comments with short ‘yeps’ and ‘nos’. Sumit left quite late. The next day, after Amit left for work, the door bell rang. Rohini opened the door and saw Sumit grinning at her. “Amit is not at home,” she said. Sumit answered, “I know. I came to meet you. Rohini, have you no feelings for me?”
Now that is interesting. We have a secret here, don’t we? Sumit comes to meet Rohini in Amit’s absence. This part, if expanded well, could make an interesting short story.
But what if you want to lengthen the story? Simple, add a little intrigue. Could be like:
The next day, after Amit left for work, the door bell rang. Rohini opened the door and saw Sumit grinning at her. “Amit is not at home,” she said. Sumit answered, “I know. I came to meet my daughter.”
Now that one’s a shocker. We know that Amit and Rohini have a 10-year old daughter and here we have Sumit claiming that daughter as his? What’s the problem, mate? You sure would like to know, wouldn’t you?
This would still be a small story.
But let’s look beyond. What kind of a character do you want to give Sumit? Don’t look at me, it’s in your hands.
Chances are he’ll probably hug and kiss his (Amit & Rohini’s) daughter . Then he might walk away into the sunset, leaving all three to lead their peaceful lives.
But he can be different – he can claim that Gia is his daughter and can take her away. This gives you, the writer, wider scope to play with the characters. How would Amit react? Would Rohini allow Sumit to take away his daughter? Won’t she assert her right over Gia? Major question – If Sumit is the father, did Amit know it or didn’t he? If he knew it, why was he quiet all these years? And after taking care of this girl for 10 years, would Amit agree easily to Sumit taking her away? Would there be a fistfight or a court battle? You decide.
Or You can try a different angle altogether (continuing from where we left off):
“She’s not your daughter,” Rohini said, “She’s my best friend Shilpa’s daughter. You made her pregnant and then abandoned her. Go back and don’t come back.”
Sumit made a sorry face. “I know, Rohini, I’ve acted like a bastard. But now I’ve realised my mistake, and I’ve come to accept my responsibility. I’m willing to be Gia’s father, and give her a home and take care of her.”
Sumit took a crying Gia and left. Amit and Rohini were left alone in the house. Since their life was centered around Gia, they suddenly found their life empty without her. Just around a month had passed and they were coming to terms with what had happened when the doorbell rang again. Rohini opened the door and involuntarily her hand covered her nose to stop the obnoxious odor of alcohol. She saw an unkempt, unshaven guy who was badly in need of a walking-stick to make him stand straight.
“Wheresh that girl? Shilpa’sssshhh baby?”
“Who are you?” Rohini asked.
“I’m Girishhhh…. Shhhilpazz brotherrrr,”
“She’s gone. Sumit took her away.”
Rohini closed her eyes as the guy screamed. “Susumiiit!”
“Suuummmiiiiiiiit! Thhhat – thhat bastard! Sonof a bbiitch.’
Rohini was about to close the door when Girish kicked it. The force pushed Rohini backwards, she lost her footing and fell.
“Why didd y you llet her go?” His red eyes were now angry.
“Didn’t you knowww – my my fatherr – he he left his entirrre essstate to Shilpazz daughter? Now that rrrrasccalll Susumeet will get it all.”
Rohini couldn’t believe her ears. So that’s why Sumit had returned after all these years!
Well, you can see for yourself how a simple incident can be converted into an interesting story that people would want to read.
Now, how about going back and having a look at that story you abandoned writing a few moons ago? Perhaps you can twist it around, add a character, delete another and re-write it?