There are websites that tell you how you should write, how you should polish your work, how you should present your work and how you should market it. All these are skills you can learn.

But those websites don’t tell you how to conceive an idea you want to write about. That’s because they cannot. If they did, it would become their idea and not yours.

The truth about fiction is – nobody can tell you how to conceive a story. You have to walk that path on your own.

One of my friends writes non-fiction for livelihood. He is good at it and, I believe, successful too. One day, he had a few questions for me – “How do you write fiction? How do you create a world around yourself? How do you dream up characters?”
I said, “I don’t know!”

The truth is I don’t know. Maybe I am just an over-imaginative person? But so too are many people around me. Maybe I like making up stories because I love telling them? But so do the friendly neighbourhood gossipmongers. So what makes us, fiction-writers, different from non-fiction writers?

I started writing stories in primary school with an aim to make my brother and friends laugh. I remember filling up an orange notebook with plays, a brown notebook with short stories and a green notebook with the beginning of a Hardy Boys – Nancy Drew combo novel. The last one was an attempt to co-write with my friend’s elder sister and, hence, titled ‘the case of the missing brooch’. Only that we had no idea what the plot was, especially after the brooch went missing. And, yes, I had no idea why someone would want a brooch out of all things.

Moral Science and English Language subjects provided fantastic opportunities during the exams. I could get away by writing the compositions in poetry format. Now that I think about it, I wonder why my teachers didn’t fail me.

When I moved to another city, I had to write an entrance examination to get into a new school. On the very first morning at the new school, I found my answer sheet had been read out to the class by our class teacher. How embarrassing!

Secondary school life was spent on love poems and rap songs. Quality didn’t matter, quantity did. I remember churning out 3 songs on one day on 3 different topics. In those pre-YouTube and pre-digital camera days, it was expensive to record at a proper studio. Thank goodness.

During college, I kept at it. I had filled up 2 diaries with poetry (one orange and the other maroon; don’t know why I am still keeping track of the colors).

My best work from those days was a short story titled ‘sometimes in love’. It was a collaboration with one of my best mates. The staff editor rejected it. ‘A story cannot have two endings.’ Why not?

When I am asked to write articles, I find it boring. I cannot focus. How can I create something when my imagination is restricted within boundaries? For this very reason, I prefer using unruled notepads. They allow me to expand and generate. (I’ll write about mind mapping in a later post.)

So, how does a fiction writer’s mind work?

Well, I cannot speak for others and I can just attempt to tell about how mine works. But let’s chat about that on another day. Ciao.

Ansh Das

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