Saturday, December 08, 2012

Story clinic on Monday 10 December

On Monday 10 December we will meet to talk about the stories submitted for this round of WRIP. I have already sent some commented stories to you by email. The rest when we meet.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Philip Hensher at JU

On Monday 19 November Philip Hensher will be at JU in the AV Room at 10am sharp to conduct a workshop on the creation of character. Eleven people have signed up so far. There are nine places still vacant. Drop me a line if you would like to be part of the workshop. On the same day, Philip will be in conversation with Sandip Roy at Oxford Bookstore in the evening about his book Scenes from Early Life.

Philip Hensher is Professor of Creative Writing (that's a dream job description) at the University of Exeter, and he's also one of the UK's foremost LGBT figures (that's LesGayBiTransexual for all you great unwashed).

Be there.

Penny Dolan workshop

If anyone is interested in writing for children, children's author Penny Dolan is conducting a workshop on 20 November at the British Council Library, for which the application deadline is 12 November, I'm afraid. Apply with 2000 word story to There will be an application fee, and a possibility of gettign published by Scholastic.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dates for Presentation

These are the dates for final presentation. Some of these people may no longer be in the course. Don't worry about that: only panic if your name should be here and isn't.




Thursday, September 06, 2012

No class today Friday Sept 7

No class today. Sinus headache. Arrgh.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Choice Story

There was a boy who lived in a village in a forest deep in a mountain valley. he spent his days caring for his parents' farm, sowing the seed and reaping the harvest. One day when he was sixteen a demon came to him in a dream with a piece of wood in one hand and a glowing coal in the other. The demon said, 'Choose'. The boy chose the coal. Some months later the black carriages rolled into the village square, and the black-clad men laid out their tables on the cobbles and made all the young men line up. He had come to sell his family's fleeces, but the rough men caught him and made him stand in line. He was put in a railway carriage with lots of strangers and taken to a faraway place, where they shaved his head and gave him new clothes and taught him how to be a soldier.

He saw many wars. He saw death and destruction and horrible lingering pain. But he learned to survive and keep his head down and not to believe all the fine words that were said on the eve of battle. Even so, in spite of his care, one day he was wounded and laid up in the field hospital with a piece of metal in his leg. And then in fevered dreams the demon came again, This time it had a bunch of grass in one hand, and a clod of earth in the other. 'Choose,' it said. But the boy rose up from his bed and clasped the demon's neck and said, 'No, last time you offered me a choice and look where it brought me. You have to tell me what these things mean. The demon smiled and said, 'You're learning. You know what the coal meant, you've lived it. Would you like to know what the wood meant?'
'Yes,' said the boy.
'Had you chosen the wood, you would have gone down to the bay some day to celebrate your uncle's buying a new plot. Your father and uncle would drink all night in the tavern, and in the morning when the press gangs came they would be passed out under the table. But you would be there, and they'd drag you off to be a grease monkey, climbing the tarry ropes. You'd see many battles, chain shot flying through the air, men burning and jumping into the sea, dead men's eyeballs when the sea spits them out again. Then one day a bullet would catch your leg, and you'd be laid up in the ship's brig, and I'd come to you with grass and a clod of earth.'
'You're a talkative demon,' says the boy. 'Now tell me what these mean.'
'No. Only hindsight sees everything.'
'All right,' said the boy, and grabbed the grass because it was fresh and green.

In time, he healed his wound and was discharged, and limped back home along streets desolated by conflict. He found his farm burned and deserted, and in the centre of the blackened flagstones of the kitchen floor there was a bunch of green grass growing. So he sat by the old well and drank its water, which was sweet, and went into town with his severance pay and bought a plough and a horse. And in time he built the farm back, and married, and had many children and the house was full of laughter and plenty. And then one night the demon came again, and this time he had a white stone in one hand, and in the other a black.
'Oh,' said the boy, who was now a man, 'It's you. Well then, tell me what the clod of earth would have given me.'
'You would have died of your wound.'

The demon extended his gnarled palms, each with a stone on it and said, 'Choose.'
'No,' said the man. 'I've had enough of this game. Suppose I don't choose?'
'Then I will come back night after night and ask you the same question.'
The man's eyes filled with tears. 'Does this mean it's time for me to die.'
'You won't know unless you choose.'
The man took a deep breath. 'I choose the black.'

The demon smiled. 'Then I have to tell you the truth of darkness. had you chose the white, I would have had to tell you the truth of light, but no matter. You only get to hear this once.'

The demon sat comfortably on the edge of the bed and began, 'Everything you see around you is spirit wrapped up tight. This stone, your bed, this earth, it is all the blood of gods who exist far away in the heavens. These gods are so hungry they eat light, they chomp it up for breakfast lunch and dinner, these dark suns. And in their bellies, light is crushed so small it has to craft itself into matter. That is the ultimate darkness of the pit, a darkness so dark there isn't even space for light to shine between the things within it. But that darkness is within you. It's what prevents you from flying apart. It's the still centre of every grain of your body. Without it, spirit flies around like an impotent thing. When you grasp the earth, the dark in your hand is touching the dark of soil, of stone, of slime. Remember that, and maybe in your next life you will hear the truth of light.'
And the demon vanished.

Your exercise: to write a story in which three choices between a pair of symbolic things are offered to the protagonist at three crucial junctures of the story. In each case, the choice must produce wisdom, so that in effect the protagonist travels a path.

Debayudh's map

Aratrika's Map

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Friday the 13th

Exercise for Friday
1. Make a character. Three levels are needed for character formation. A. a census form. Name, age, occupation, gender, place of birth, parents, language, class, income etc. B. Timeline of important events till the present. c. Value map: temperament, propensities, tastes, values, dreams, quirks. Definitely do A, and if you are feeling adventurous try B and C.
2. Create a five-sentence plot outline for a horror story.

You can do either one of these.

Saturday, July 07, 2012


You have all been sent invites to the blog. Please click on the link in the invite to join. For those who were not present on Friday, we did a story exercise. I asked people to write a story outline in five sentences. As follows:

1. Introduce your main character, ie the person whose point of view you will take.
2. Introduce your subsidiary character who will interact with the main one.
3. Describe the start state.
4. Describe the destabilising force.
5. Describe the resolution.

This is the simplest story-recipe you can have.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Robin Hood Reloaded

Dear Wrippers,
David Miller of Bedfordshire Uni is doing a project funded by UNESCO on how people see the Robin Hood story. He feels this is specially relevant in these times of financial turmoil and growing poverty in the West. He wants us to help him by brainstorming versions of Robin Hood in India.These could be completely fictional, or based on a real character or person. He suggests Veerappan, but I thought our very own Maoists or Angulimala would be better models. Of course, Robin Hood in this country cannot escape caste, race and class.
Dave wants to produce a book which will have augmented reality (AR) features: that is, when you point your mobile phone at it, new features will pop up, like speech balloons by the character's heads, a hidden layer, an alternative story, etc. So we will also need to generate some visual content. He will do the technical stuff for this.
What he wants from us is storytellers and stories. I think he wants us to do this in Bangla (he hasn't confirmed yet) and with an Indian setting. He has plans for a graphic novel and various other spinoffs as well. I'll try and post his full project note (it's a pdf)
Please comment here if you want to be part of this project.