Saturday, 22 June 2019

Thinking Through Your Story

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Welcome to Week T of Authors' Tips A - Z of Writing. 

If this is the first time you are visiting this series, here's a quick recap. 

Authors share their tips on writing fiction and each week we talk about various aspects of writing. This week, I discuss a very vital part of the writing process: The Thinking Through Stage. What comes before you have written a single word of your manuscript. 

Read on... and don't forget to share your thoughts in the comment box. 


How do you get your ideas? What comes first? The characters or the plot or the theme? This question is perhaps on every aspiring writer's mind and is among the most discussed topic on writing discussion forums.Well, the quick answer to that is, there is no structured way of getting ideas. Rarely, does a story idea hit you on the head with a neatly defined beginning, middle and end, a plotline, theme and fully developed characters. No, that doesn't happen! And if someone tells you it has happened to them, well, he/she is pulling a fast one! 😅

The fun -- and also most annoying -- part of writing is the pre-writing process. Fun because you have a clean slate. Annoying because you are only being given glimpses of the story. And that too in a higgledy piggledy fashion. I call this the Thinking Through Your Story Process.

You may have a wonderful idea that excites you and you are eager to get to your computer and start bashing it out. Wait! Don't do that.

Let the Idea Breathe. Every story idea needs some breathing space. That one little germ of an idea could be anything - a piece of a plotline, a scene between two unknown (yet) characters, a specific or broad theme that you feel you could take further (examples: dilemma of an assassin who has lost his killing mojo or how racism takes a toll on people). Yes, do think about how it can be progressed but don't start writing yet.

Plot/Character Progression. If you have the nub of a plotline or a vague idea of how the story will end or begin, you can start jotting down these points in one or two lines, never more than that, so that you don't lose the thought. If your idea has come to you in the form of a character, make notes about  the person/s, again notes in a couple of lines. A few broad strokes is all you need at this stage.

Building the Theme. If  you have a vague idea about the theme of your story, you are on more solid ground. Any story needs a theme that will play out -- provide your story and characters with differing points of view and hence conflict. Even a simple boy meets girl story can work only if there is a theme. If you don't know the theme yet, you can reach out to your still developing characters for help. Why is a character a certain way? What's his/her backstory or family background? How has that shaped the person that he/she is. This mental workout will help you find a theme that resonates with the characters.

Growing your Story. Before long you will find that the germ of an idea has transformed into a living, breathing organism. The Thinking Through Process is already giving you ideas for scenes, snippets of dialogue, turning points, key plot points and more. Keep notes (shorter and more precise, the better) till you have a rough idea about the beginning, middle and end. And now you're ready to work out an outline.

Taking it Slowly. If this feels a little 'too much' or overwhelming, relax. Give it a break. Don't think about your story for a couple of days. Do something totally different before you get back to it. Chances are that you'd have found a few new angles to your story. How do you know that the Thinking Through Process is done? Well, the process continues all through the writing of your story. But once you have a beginning, middle and end (or a rough idea of what these will be), you're  now ready to move on to outlining the scenes or if you prefer straight on to writing your first draft.

Keeping track of your Story. Keeping a document or a beat sheet of scenes (described in as few words as possible) will help you to keep track of your story. Add/delete scenes as your story shifts and changes. This sheet will help you to keep in mind the original development of the story and the theme/plot/characters that you were so fascinated with. If you lose your way in the middle, looking at this sheet will help you find your way back.

But most importantly, enjoy the process! Happy Writing!


Do check out T posts in this series by these authors: 

Devika Fernando writes about Titles

Sudesna Ghosh gives the low down on Time Management

Preethi Venugopala discusses Themes in Fiction Writing





Saturday, 15 June 2019

The Definition of a Love Story


On the occasion of Father’s Day Jaideep Sen pens a heartfelt piece for Salim Saab who is more than a father figure to him. Read on…  


I don’t remember the context in which I made this particular call to Salim Saab one evening during the interval of a Film that I was watching at PVR Citi Mall, Mumbai. But as usual it was enriching because in the course of the conversation when I mentioned to him that in my understanding, a Love Story comprises of the relationship between a boy and girl, he stopped me and said that it’s a misconception that a Love Story is only between a boy and girl. Now that was a first for me and I immediately felt that some life altering knowledge was going to be imparted by the gifted Salim Saab.


He said that a love story can be between a master and servant, between an animal and his master and mentioned Haathi Mere Saathi in that context.  In that very moment my already immense respect for Salim Saab shot up uncountable folds and went through the roof. Such indepth understanding of the emotion of Love, beyond the expected boy-girl dynamic is completely unheard of, but then that’s what separates a man from the boys and a genius from the good. 


It is purely because of this understanding that Salim Saab along with his erstwhile partner Javed Akhtar Saab has written the greatest Love Story between two friends in Sholay, a mother and sons in Deewar and between two brothers in Naam, his first film as a solo writer.


These three films had an uninterrupted flow of Love from both parties towards each other but the one complex Love Story riddled with roadblocks was the one between father and son in Shakti, which brought together for the first and last time two of the greatest actors of Indian cinema, Mr. Dilip Kumar and Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in one of Salim Saab-Javed saab’s greatest scripts ever for which they got the Filmfare Award for Best Screenplay.  


There is only one word to describe the simmering equation between  Ashwini Kumar and his son, Vijay – Volatile.


The misunderstanding that lodges itself in Vijay’s head as a child takes such life threatening proportions as he grows into a young man that he is perpetually doubting the stand and intent of his righteous father. This keeps widening the gap between them to such an extent that the only bridge that finally connects them is death, when the cop father has no choice but to shoot his fugitive son.


That particular moment between the shattered Ashwini and a dying Vijay brings a lump in my throat even as I punch the keys of my laptop and revisit the unforgettable death scene. A dying Vijay tells his father: “Bahot koshish ki ki apne dil se aapki mohabbat nikaal doon lekin main hamesha aapse pyaar karta raha.” (I have tried very hard to remove all traces of love for you from my heart, but I've always loved you.)


I feel these are the most emotionally powerful words ever said to elevate the emotion of love over hatred and genuinely heighten the definition of a Love Story.  

Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling


Read some of his earlier pieces in this series here...






Tuesday, 28 May 2019

A Gun Salute for Veeru Devgan


Jaideep Sen

Jaideep Sen pays tribute to Bollywood's Star Action Director

As I stood in front of Veeru (Devgan) Ji’s pyre last evening I felt that an era of genuine “greatness” had come to an end.


When I kissed his forehead, through numbing pain that crossed my heart, the only thought that passed my mind was: why can’t our parents be immortal.  


It took me back to the Prayer meeting organized for the late Divya Bharti’s Mother where the priest conducting the ceremony had in his discourse said “Jo Bhagwan dikhte hain woh Mata Pita hote hain, jo Mata Pita nahin dikhte woh Bhagwan” 


These words have made a lasting impact on me. I’ve unfortunately lost both my parents and who would feel the impact of those words more than me.


Veeru Devgan: Hindi Contemporary Cinema's First Star Action Director
Veeru Ji is the first Star Action Director in contemporary Hindi cinema, a name that has graced the credit titles of more than 80 films & my personal favourites among them are Manoj Kumar Ji’s Kranti, Raj Sippy’s Loha and Rajiv Rai’s Tridev. The sheer scale of the action of these three Films is breathtaking and considering that all three were huge multi-starrers, to weave in the strength of the actors into the designing of the sequences and justifying the presence of each of the actors in them is the work of a gifted and genius craftsman which Veeru Ji indeed was.


Here I must make a special mention of Kranti because Veeru Ji considered its monumental filmmaker, Manoj Kumar Ji his Guru and Manoj Ji had a very special place in Veeru Ji’s life and heart. I overheard veteran actor Raza Murad Saab mentioning to someone at Veeru Ji’s last rites that it was Manoj Ji’s Roti Kapda aur Makaan which had a big climax set at a railway bridge with which the fraternity took notice of Veeru Ji and he even played a small cameo in Kranti.


Not many people are aware that Veeru Ji had actually come to Mumbai to be an actor but destiny had other plans and he became one of the biggest action directors of Indian cinema from east to west and north to literally south where in collaboration with the legendary actor, Jeetendra Ji, he has given an avalanche of mega hits in Himmatwala, Justice Chaudhary, Mawali and many more.


Veeru Ji also choreographed the action for Super Star Rajnikant Sir’s debut Hindi film Andhaa Kanoon and devised for the first time a concept of multiple kicks where the hero would jump up in the air and kick the opponent multiple times before landing on the ground. This gravity defying stunt was lapped up by the audience which went ballistic with applause. This was something which Veeru Ji had conceived with his acute sense of editing which gave the Hero a Super Hero status; that is how big a hero Veeru Ji was behind the camera.


Ajay Devgan in Phool aur Kaante
Let’s now come to a glorious success story of Veeru Ji’s life which is the arrival and immediate super success of his son, Vishal Devgan, who took the nation by storm as Ajay Devgan when he burst on screen straddling two motorbikes in Phool aur Kaante. Ace filmmaker Rohit Shetty – for whom too Veeru Ji is like a father – paid a tribute to this sequence in Golmaal Returns. Rohit himself was an assistant director on Ajay’s debut film.


Since Ajay’s birth Veeru Ji had decided that what He couldn’t achieve as an actor, his son would and that is exactly what Ajay achieved.


I’d like to believe that Ajay’s success story has been singlehandedly fuelled by Veeru Ji’s passion and determination who left no stone unturned to make it happen. I doff my hat to Ajay’s devotion for his father and his dream to give his hundred per cent  to realise and fulfil his father’s dream. 

When Ajay lit his father’s pyre, am sure Veeru Ji would have had a smile within him as he bid adieu to this world seeing his son’s super success. Ajay too would have had the satisfaction of being the successful and dutiful son his father had always hoped to have. Having interacted with and experienced the greatness of Veeru Ji, I can say with certainty that they don’t make Men of Steel like Veeru Devgan anymore.

Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling. 
 

Monday, 27 May 2019

No Safe Zone by Adite Banerjie - Cover Reveal

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Do authors love some of their own books more than others they have written?  Having been a  writer for a while now, I believe that every book is special - and I have felt deeply about each of my characters. But if I were to pick that one title that has a special place in my heart, it would be No Safe Zone.

It's a romantic thriller - my first in this genre - which is set in one of my favourite places in the world: Jaipur. It features a feisty heroine Qiara Rana who is an activist and wants to change the world. The hero Kabir Shorey is to die for - an Intelligence Bureau officer who rides a mean motorbike and catches the bad guys! And these two have a history. Can Qiara forgive Kabir for betraying her? Can Kabir overcome his past and do good by Qiara? 

Writing this story was a challenge as it was an escapist romance set in a real world. I'm so so happy to bring No Safe Zone out as an e-book. But before that, I have a Cover Reveal... I hope you love the cover as much as I do. It features the beautiful and mysterious Jal Mahal (in Jaipur) which was an inspiration for my story.

Blurb


London-bred activist Qiara Rana will do anything to save her mentor and their NGO, Girls Rock!, from ruin. Even if it means visiting the city she had vowed never to return to.  But within a few hours of landing in New Delhi, she is being chased by a gunman and is a potential suspect in the murder of a high profile businessman. The only person she can turn to for help is Kabir Shorey, the man who stood her up ten years ago. 

On a mission to bust an international women’s trafficking ring, Intelligence Bureau officer Kabir Shorey runs slam bang into the girl who has tormented his dreams. He is determined to protect her but can he save himself from the all-consuming passions that flare up between them all over again? 

As the past and present collide in a deadly plot of crime and greed that moves from the cosmopolitan streets of London and Delhi to the bazaars and villages of Rajasthan, old secrets are ripped away. Treading the fine lines between safety and danger, truth and lies, love and betrayal, Qiara and Kabir discover that in life there is no safe zone.



And now for the Cover....




I'd love to hear your thoughts about the cover. :)


 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Power of a Progressive Pen - by Jaideep Sen

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Week S of the Authors' Tips Series is proving to be a pathbreaking one. 

In a second post for Alphabet S, Jaideep Sen writes about the significance of social messaging in films, particularly the kind of progressive writing as categorised in Master Screenwriter Salim Khan's films.

Read on...


When my writer friend, Adite Banerjie, mentioned that her blog is doing something called “Week S” which is celebrating any Phenomenon starting with the Alphabet S, I thought it was only apt that I did my next piece on Phenomenal Writer, Salim Saab.


Cinema breaks the time barrier, becomes timeless and its respect is etched in stone when along with the required ingredient of entertainment it also deals with socially relevant issues and progressive characters. This has been the hallmark of Salim Saab’s writing – both as an independent writer as well as in his writing partnership with Javed Akhtar.  
Satyen Kappu in Deewar
The dialogues spoken by Satyen Kappu Ji in Deewar: “Hamari shikayat yeh hain ki hamare aate ke kanastar khali kyon hain” and Kumar Gaurav in Naam:  “Zameer aur pet ki ladaai mein zameer sirf kitabon mein jit ta hain,haqiqat mein jeet pet ki hoti hain” bear testimony to that by equating social and economic disparity to hunger. This is the most raw, naked and hard-hitting expression that a pen can deliver. This outcry is born out of angst and progression out of sensitivity.


Kumar Gaurav in Naam
In their incredible body of work, perhaps the most progressive character that comes to mind is Thakur Baldev Singh in Sholay. On one side, he’s the man seeking revenge for the brutal massacre of his family and on the other we see him as the extremely understanding and sensitive father-in-law who not only senses his widowed daughter-in-law Radha’s sorrow and loneliness but also her tilt towards Jai. He proposes to her father that Radha should get married again.

This scene is remarkably overwhelming because Radha’s own father is hesitant and embarrassed at even the thought of her remarriage and how sensibly and sensitively Thakur Saab explains to him his reasons for the proposal and convinces the Father.
 
What has stayed back with me is how progressive this piece of writing is which can only be a product of extremely noble minds who through art influence society to become a better place to live in. This in turn raises the contribution and respect of cinema to a dignified pedestal.

Sanjeev Kumar and Iftekhar in Sholay
This quality of Salim Saab-Javed Saab’s inspirational writing found its voice in last season’s KBC TV show, where one of its contestants from Himachal Pradesh mentioned that one sad spot in their family was that her younger sister (who was in the audience along with their parents) had lost her husband at a young age and that though they were trying to get her remarried, they were finding it difficult because even today it’s not a very socially accepted norm. The family was in tears at this point and to reassure them Mr. Bachchan had mentioned how he and his fraternity of performing artistes try to do their bit for society through their films. He had also quoted none other than the Epic film Sholay and his track in the film with Jaya Ji as an attempt to create awareness that a widow is entitled to remarry and live a happy life once again.

This just shows how foresighted the Masters of Writing were -- what they wrote in 1973 (released in 1975) is even in 2019, and shall always be, the reference point of the power of a progressive pen. 

Jaideep Sen is a filmmaker and a connoisseur of the art of storytelling