By Trilokjit Sengupta
Do you know what good writing is? For that matter, do you know what good soup is? Or
good art? Okay, how about a good song? Why call a beer good? Now that we are on the
topic, what exactly is a good girl? Do you know any? Could you forward me their numbers
when you are done reading this?
I am writing this with an open tag. Which means anyone who reads this can write about the
same. In the comments section or as an email so I can put it up. It’s called The Writer’s
Meme. And though this is a better tag than the “spot the 18 lies about my homophobic uncle
turned miniature taxidermist” kinds, let me warn you, it is also kind of pressurising. But more
relevant. Because as bloggers we write and share our lives, likes, dislikes, quirks with millions
of nameless stumblers. And we try our best to make it as readable and interesting as
possible. We proclaim, educate, amuse, impress and ocassionally seduce (yes, yes, yes). So
it is but natural, that most of us will have sound and somewhat vociferous ideas of what
makes the cut. And like all opinions, you might not agree with a few. But that’s ok. We still
have regular jobs. And working plastic.
So here I go. In my attempt to try and encapsulate all that I know about the myriad strengths
of a writer. I will try to keep it simple and unpretentious, just like the girl-next-door you wished
you lived next door to. A good writer.
Fits you like a sock. The first few lines. It’s all in the first few lines. If it starts good, it probably
is all the way. And the metaphoric advice isn’t silly. Try it. Pull up a sock to your ankle and it
fits you well you just have to pull it up all the way. It’s karmic engineering (or plain good
elastic). That’s how I picked up most of my books that now take up more space in my house
than the floor.
Wants you to enjoy his creation. Which is why he keeps it simple. No complicated 233 word
sentences. Or a fiery volley of words that leave you with a weight upon thy tongue (apologies
to the great bard). Their words are their arsenal. But not big, flashy ones. They would rather
employ small, sharp knives that seldom inspire awe or fear, but cut red and deep. And the
pain is scarlet. To illustrate with an example; Haruki Murakami in ‘Hard Boiled Wonderland
and the End of The World, describes Dylan’s voice as, “Like a kid standing at the window
watching the rain”. Feel that? Good. Next.
Is interesting. There’s a plot. And it moves. The writer has a point of view. An idea, a theory, a
concept. And he wants to share it. He wants to be heard. And the one’s who succeed in
talking to us, are the ones who kept them interesting. And this holds true from the very first
time man learnt to write. They were stories with epic battles, brave men who fought dragons,
rough seas and beautiful women who liked marmalade. All an attempt to keep us reading.
And it worked. Still does.
Lets us find the magic. He seldom tries too hard. A regular slight of hand becomes fantastic,
ethereal even. And it is done amidst the casual clutter of everyday. Do you remember feeling
hungry while reading about the Famous Five? Or feel despair like the Joads? Didn’t you feel
like making aquiantance with a certain Bertram Wooster as he slipped into the Drones for
dinner? You remember the littlest of details, the most insignificant ones that have nothing to
do with the plot. Because one lazy afternoon, a long, long time ago, as you were reading in
bed, you guffawed out loud or wet the pillow case with uncontrollable, little sobs. All for a few
words, painfully and lovingly arranged for you to feel that way.
Respects you. There is a breed of writers, who write to assert their superiority. Their godlike
grasp over the subtle nuances of the language. Their skills in weaving 3,076 characters in
one episode. Their ability to manufacture fantasy characters with semi-Gaelic first names. To
me it shows a clear lack of things to say. They aren’t storytellers, or communicators, or
propogators of change. They are there to fill up shelves of yellowish, chain, neon-lit, plasticky
Can induce change. That’s because he makes you think. His idea is something that you
spend time with, long after you have finished reading what he had to write. You argue with
people over fictional characters you feel compelled to like or dislike. You are scared to admit
that they scare you. That’s how they bring about change. In acceptability. In society. In
morality. Future states of being.
There are enough examples to go around without me indulging in name dropping. And those
of you who have reached this far are probably rattling off a thousand examples in their head
as you read this line. Aren’t you already? There are more things. Bigger, greater, more
important things that a writer does to amass the kind of strength that he has. To move
generations by a sweep of the pen. But these are the few things that I thought are the most
important. That what gives a writer the keys to our kingdom. To enter our being and flutter
there forever. Becoming who we are, almost.