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Writers explore craft of short story writing at JLF

Jaipur, Jan 28 (IANS) A session titled “Beginnings and Endings” at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) featured award-winning writers sharing profound insights on the craft of short-story writing and the importance of the beginning and the ending, along with their personal process of crafting stories.

Author and moderator Paul McVeigh began the discussion on the concluding day of the fest by asking the panellists about the beginnings of their stories.

“I’m not good at beginnings,” said Pulitzer-winning author Andrew Sean Greer. For him, “the beginning must have some kind of mystery.” The beginning could often give away the entire story without readers realising it, he quipped.

For author and novelist Anjum Hassan, “the story is a glimpse of something.”

She said she attempts to capture the style in the first paragraph, rather than focusing on conveying information. Often, what serves as the beginning of the writing process is a “conversation in a bus or a face. Some of the things you dream about become responsibilities, she added.

It’s an “impulse” that gets her to write, rather than a plot, she shared.

Jayanth Kaikini, noted Kannada writer and winner of the DSC Prize, conceives of the short story as “a mode of thought, a mode of knowing.”

He said he explores the story only as he begins to write, starting out with a blank page in front of him.

“I can see physically a place, a context,” he said. “It’s like fishing,” waiting for the story to be caught on paper.

Writer Mahesh Raodis agreed with the practice of beginning with a hook for the reader.

He said he prefers an opening that describes “the beginning of a quiet moment of transformation” and then grows into “something quite big.”

“I really need concrete things to latch on to.” Yet even as he draws upon reality, he needs “a spark” to begin writing, something that really stands out.

The second half of the session dealt with endings. Greer said that he usually knows the ending of the story before he begins.

In fact, in the case of his latest novel “Less”, he said he “rewrote the rest of the booka to keep the ending. Rao agreed with this planned method of writing, saying “I knew how it would end, which is why I started at all.”

Kaikini added that “the entire experience of writing takes us to the ending.”

He elaborated further: “Every story has its soul and its body in proportion. So much soul can only hold so much body.” Therefore, the story decides when to stop.

Hassan too said she would be willing to “go back and rewrite everything”, that is the “way the ending is a beginning.”

She distinguished between stories that are “open-ended” and “unresolved.” Open-ended stories have “a small universe of possible endings,” as opposed to unresolved stories. Rao added that open-ended stories result in “a dialogue between the reader and the writer.”



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