The next Navhind Times workshop is on Creative Writing conducted by Jessica Faleiro, author of ‘Afterlife’ (2012) and ‘The Delicate Balance of Little Lives’ (2018). Open to those between the ages of 16 and 23 years, the workshop aims to help people learn techniques of the craft of writing fiction. In conversation with NT Kuriocity, Jessica tells us more
Maria Fernandes|NT Kuriocity
Jessica Faleiro has an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University, UK and her fiction, poetry, essays and travel pieces have been widely published. Her first novel ‘Afterlife: Ghost stories from Goa’ (2012) is about a Goan family and their ‘ghostly’ encounters. ‘The Delicate Balance of Little Lives’ (2018), a collection of interlinked stories about five middle-class Goan women trying to cope with loss was recently launched. She won the Joao Roque Literary Award for ‘Best in Fiction 2017’ for her short story ‘Unmatched.’
- What is the objective of the workshop?
The workshop is open to all those interested in writing and will introduce beginners and improvers to some of the key elements in writing, as well as tips to write creatively. Workshop attendees will have the chance to practice writing a story and get feedback on what they’ve written to help them improve.
- Can you tell us briefly what you will be covering in the workshop?
I aim to cover the topics that include introduction; Opening Lines; Story Arc; Writing Dialogue; Enriching Narrative; Creating Characters; Write a Story; Plot a Story; Editing and Revision.
- What are some of the important tools for writing engaging narratives especially for fiction?
Dialogue, conflict, plot, characterisation, point of view, theme, voice, description, setting, pacing, style, and editing and revision are the key elements. I’ll cover a few of these during the workshop because of limited time, but if understood and practiced diligently, these will immediately improve one’s ability to write engaging narrative.
- Could you explain one in detail?
Let’s look at plot. Broadly speaking, the fiction one writes will fall into one of two categories: literary fiction or plot-driven/genre fiction. While literary fiction tends to use symbolism and metaphor to embed deeper meaning in its narrative moving towards social or political commentary, plot-driven fiction will engage conflict in a more meaningful, structured way to drive the story forward. However, both use the same narrative techniques and literary devices in order to create engaging narratives. This workshop will focus more on plot-driven fiction as I cover the importance of conflict, and demonstrate how it can be used to develop an interesting story. Readers may not consciously realise that ‘pacing’, ‘description’, ‘setting’, ‘dialogue’ and other story elements are crafted around plot, using conflict to its best effect in order to create what we call a ‘page-turner.’ A few examples of plot-driven fiction are stories written in the crime, thriller, detective or romance genres.
- Mediocrity is common in/while writing so how do you make dialogues interesting and descriptions visual?
Interesting dialogue reveals something about the speaking character. If written well, it reads quickly and lightens up narrative. If in doubt, always read aloud what you’ve written to see if it sounds right and know what to edit. As for descriptions, the best ones create three-dimensional images in a reader’s mind using words. Good descriptions transport readers into the story, making them forget about their immediate environment. To write a good description, think about this: you read and write with your brain, but you live your life in your body. A good description will convey the physicality of a lived experience in that environment to their reader, bringing all their senses alive, and convincing them of the reality of whatever fictional world you have created. The reader should taste the bitterness of bad soup, feel the roughness of unshaved skin, smell the burning roast in the oven, see the quicksilver of falling rain or hear screeching tires during an accident described in a story.
- Starting to write a piece of fiction is not always easy. How does one start?
Inspiration for stories is all around you; just learn how to pay attention. Authors get inspiration from anywhere and everywhere: overheard conversations, newspaper headlines, a line from a poem, a neighbour’s anecdote, a photograph, an old postcard, a piece of art spotted in a museum or gallery, observing an old couple crossing the road, watching a puppy digging a hole, an intense dream and so on. Some authors carry a notebook with them to jot down ideas when inspiration strikes, sometimes creating whole characters just from observing people while sitting on a park bench.
- Is it true that writing requires discipline? How does one find the discipline to continue writing?
If you want to be a writer, just write. Don’t wait and give excuses. There is no replacement for finding a place to sit and just start writing or typing on your laptop, even if this means carving out just ten minutes at the start or end of every day to write. Some writers create a ritual so that they get into the writing zone. You can get a book that you love and a plain pen that is reserved just for writing your stories and designate a writing nook for yourself – whether this is a corner of your house, a local café or an empty beach, it doesn’t matter. Decide on one time of the day when you are just going to write for ten minutes without break and stick to that. That way, your brain is programmed and prepared to produce text for at least ten minutes that day, come rain or shine. As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. Another way to build discipline and keep your writing confidence up is to form a small group of like-minded writers with some know-how about the writing craft, and at the same level of interest as you. Share written work in confidence, offer constructive criticism and support each other, with the aim of getting published in order to boost your writing confidence. The key thing is to make a start somewhere. If you really want to be a writer, you will find a way.
- Many dream of writing a book and having it published. How can one gain the skills to become a published fiction writer?
If you aren’t already an avid reader, then become one. Pay attention to the genres or types of stories that you like to read and then dissect or deconstruct those stories paying attention to how the author has employed craft to create the story for your enjoyment. I teach creative writing and tell students in my classes and workshops to write stories in the genres that appeal to them. So, for example, if you enjoy reading ghost stories, attempt writing one after understanding how to build atmosphere and a heightened sense of emotion through the use of language and pacing. Unlike in detective fiction, in a ghost story, plot is secondary to creating an effective, emotionally charged atmosphere full of tension. A good fiction writer understands these details and practices them regularly in their own writing. Also, get practiced at submitting stories for publication and learning how to take rejection. All writers, without fail, have had their work rejected at some point or the other. Finally, try to attend writing workshops like this one. Many are popping up across Goa at the moment, for writers of all ages. And finally, learn how to edit and revise your story. It’s crucial to realise that your first draft is only that – a draft. There is always a way to improve it, whether that is cutting out words that are unnecessary to the telling of the story or editing out characters that don’t support the story you want to tell.
- You began writing at an early age. What attracted you to it?
I wrote my first poem when I was ten. Teenagers often turn to poetry as a way of creatively expressing their angst, so I realised a long time ago that this wasn’t a unique moment. However, what was unique was my interest in becoming a writer, which accompanied that moment. I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old and I knew it again when I turned sixteen. I lacked the supportive environment in which to explore this dream however, so it remained a latent dream until I resurrected it in my late twenties and did an MA in Creative Writing to immerse myself in the world of authors and publishers. It set me on the path of being a full-time author and there was no looking back.
- Any favourite authors that have inspired your writings?
I’m a fan of Jhumpa Lahiri’s work, especially her short story collection ‘The Interpreter of Maladies’. It was the first time I’d read any literary fiction about the Indian diaspora and opened up to me the possibilities of exploring unique ways of writing about similar topics.
To apply for the workshop, log on to navhindtimes.in/events and fill in the form. Last date for application is November 18