Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Getting started in writing a short story


Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com]
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Miss Grace Velasco 

738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
 
Writing a short story is difficult to start even if the plot is already in the writer's mind. It is like writing the lead paragraph of a news. But in literature it is not the punch the news writer delivers to pin down the interest of his reader, thereafter guiding the news to diminish progressively to its end. No, not in a short story.

Rather, the start is unveiling, the opening of the curtain, and there on the stage are revealed the characters, setting and mood, which accompany the start of the story. From here, the plot builds into climax, and climax peaks to suspense, then settling down into a feeling of exhilaration or surrender, often concluding to enlightenment and fulfillment. At least this is how a classical piece of literature starts, proceeds, sustains and ends. Take it from a unique story teller, winner of the Republic Heritage Award for literature.

To wit.

"Garden in the starlight, and fragrance almost luminous. In that garden the camia and gardenia gave a pale glimmer, a sheen which seemed to diffuse a steady glow; in the garden, now touching to silver a cloud atop the trees, now starting a silver shower pattering on the leaves below, the starlight brought with it perfume of far spaces heavy, and sad, like the essence of something forgotten. By the restless fountain a young girl was sobbing because her heart was broken, because her heart was broken. " (From Dance-Music by Dr Arturo B Rotor, Pathways to Philippine Literature in English by Arturo G Roseburg, Phoenix Press 1958)
 
Short story writer, Dr AB Rotor, author of Dance-Music, Men who Play God, Twilight's Convict, Zita, Dahong Palay. A medical doctor and first Filipino allergist, he discovered a liver dysfunction named after him, Rotor Syndrome. He served as executive secretary of Presidents Quezon and Osmeña during the WWII era. 

When I first read this story, I wanted to sketch this starting paragraph. The imagery is vivid and clear. It is challenging. It is compelling. This is how an artist satiates curiosity. And curiosity leads to discovery. Why the great literary pieces are rich and flowing with imagery!

Take the first paragraph of The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893). To wit.

Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant was a French writer, remembered as a master of the short story form, and as a representative of the naturalist school of writers, who depicted human lives and destinies 

..."She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education."

Here the imagery is about the principal character, a woman who is introduced in a manner as to fit the setting of the story and the role she will play throughout the story. It is this first paragraph that gives an aura of a simpleton easily a victim of the trappings of capriciousness. The writer demonstrates a skill beyond just the art of writing, but in analyzing human nature.

I like the beginning paragraph of Bliss by Katherine Mansfield. To wit.

"Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at - nothing - at nothing, simply." (Bliss, Catherine Mansfield,1888-1923)

Kathleen Mansfield Murry was a prominent New Zealand modernist short story writer who was born and brought up in colonial New Zealand and wrote under the pen name of Katherine Mansfield. 

 Beautiful, isn't? To start a story about a woman, the main character of the story. With this beginning description, the reader is led to the subject in focus and how she is going to relate with the title, Bliss. Is she potentially the person to enjoy life? That lies ahead of going to a woman going past her age? Would Bertha realize her dreams after all? So, the start of the story gains immediate momentum - which is very important in a short story - or novel or essay.

Here is the beginning paragraph of The Happy Prince, one of the popular story stories written by Oscar Wilde. What does the beginning of the story imply?  The little prince irt seems is venerated, but why is his monument place "high above the city?"   

"High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince.  He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt." 

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was 
an Irish playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet.

Well, the answer is that the little prince had died but he is still on the guard over the city.  He could see everything from his pedestal, so that he was aware of the conditions of the people especially the poor.  And he wanted to help them. But how?.   

Now is the time to start writing a short story. Try it. Discover your talent. Write the beginning paragraph of the story you have in mind. You will be glad you found yourself a writer - you.~

NOTE: There are short stories in this Blog, such as Guava, the Tree of Happy Childhood, There's No Global Warming on Angels Hill, Lost in the Desert, The Mystery Child, among others. You may like to find out what these stories are, how the writer started writing them, proceeding with the plot and ending it up.

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