Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

why do we tell stories?

Why do we tell stories? In this busy world where nobody has time to stop and listen, why do we continue writing stories, hoping someone will read till the end?

For me, stories are roundabout ways to arrive at the roots of reality. If we dig straight and directly, we are more likely to destroy the fine, delicate roots which nourish life itself. Life's mysteries and the sense of wonderment they engender, cannot always be filed away and conveniently categorized as dry data. That's where the storyteller enters, to breathe life into words and emotions, and evoke all the nuances that make up life.

Let's take a question which many of us face. What does it mean to be an Indian? It isn't easy to define the sense of identity we feel in a land of many cultures and languages. I'm a Bengali (Bong), but folks in Karnataka, where I live, take me for a Coorgi or a Mangalorean. Some have even taken it for granted and tried to converse with me in their totally incomprehensible to me dialects. I've given up trying to explain to people that I'm a Bong (noo, not from Kolkata, only rarely visit there, never lived in those parts, no roots there. but I know the language well enough to translate a Bangla story or two into English) I'm a Bong born in Delhi because my father settled in Delhi after Independence/Partition (1946, to be exact). Ancestors are East Bengalis. And now I live in Karnataka and speak passable Kannada. I've given up explaining to people and just say, I'm Indian.

I wrote a short story which has a reference to this feeling of being different, but also being totally Indian. The link to 'A Royal Tour' is on the right sidebar.

I have always wondered how much of one's personal experience can go into a story and still be considered fiction? This particular story of mine is based on my true life experiences. My only child is named Siddhartha, and he is a newly emerged from the chrysalis doctor. This piece started out as creative non fiction. But somewhere along the way, it evolved into fiction. As the real life Siddhartha observed,"The character evolves into someone like me towards the end, but at the beginning of the story, he is quite different."

I put this question to Indian author and actor Tom Alter, who despite his markedly Caucasian looks, is 100% Indian, right down to peppering his English speech with untranslateable Hindi and Urdu colloquialisms. Here's his reply;
"As for putting personal truth in our writing? -- it is the only thing to do -- all writers do -- they must -- we must -- in both of my novels, I am everywhere -- but not always as 'I' "

I hope some readers of this blog will pause to enlighten me. How much of your own experiences and emotions do you put into your fiction?


sanju said...

Hello Moni
Such delightful reading this piece is!. In my case, most of my stories (very limited in number to be honest) that have seen the daylights are indeed, based on my personal experiences.

And yes, I am looking forward to read more of your blogs.

monideepa sahu said...

Thanks for dropping by, Sanju. Yes, I feel the storyteller does tend to delve deep into personal experiences. The colours of the storyteller's imagination changes these experiences ito something totally new.

Hasmita said...

I put a lot of my emotions and experiences in my fiction, Moni, but instead of full episodes or incidents, I use what-if and see what might have happened if... or see things from another person's POV. Sometimes I pour my emotions or perspectives on a character in my story but s/he accepts some of it and then changes the rest of it.

Hasmita said...

Reading The Royal Tour. Loved "Tile-roofed cottages appear and are left behind, punctuating the emerald monotony of paddy fields."

Unknown said...

WE met on FB and if u remember, I had promised u comments for ur blog, after going through in detail.

WELL Moni, u do have a serious blog, with original contents.

THE latest webpost putting the question to the visitors/readers as to 'how much of own experiences and emotions should be put into one's fiction', is indeed a good exercise.

HOPE to read ur blog frequently. Please send a prompter (on FB or my mail id) whenever u update "Moni's Nook".

Neeraj Bhushan

Bob Sanchez said...

You raise an interesting question. How much of myself goes into my stories? Not that much, I don't believe. There are characters who share my basic values, but making characters interesting is much more important to me than making them "true" to my experiences. An American writer, Lawrence Block, wrote a book entitled "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit." In the literal sense, fiction is a set of lies--yet underlying truths may and do come out of those stories.

Little I write about ever happened to me, but often the events are inspired by something I have seen or heard.

East - West said...

Hi Moni, we all are influenced by what happens to us. And in one way or the other, at various times of our lives, we then regurgitate the information. Best, Laju K.

Unknown said...

Gr8 piece Moni. Very YOU. Loved it.
As some one said every piece of writing is a blend of observation, experience and imagination in varying degrees.
In my case the experience portion is tempered with my values.