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Archive for May, 2013

exotic beauty

It was worth waiting for the peacock, seen at a small farm, to unfold its feathers.

Looking at it brought back two memories.

One was the grammar lessons memorizing the similes. One that we liked was “as proud as a peacock”.

The other was that when I was in elementary (or primary) school, there was an urban legend going around that if you place a peacock feather in between the pages of a book, it would grow.

So we roped in our parents, or any helpful relative, to find a peacock feather, and we carried out the experiment. Of course, the feather did not grow, but the idea itself was sufficiently magical and fun.

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Fiction tips

Keating: Dickens and Graham Greene were masters at crafting setting. (pic: wordriot.org)

Setting, the time and place in which a work of fiction occurs, is a crucial element in a novel.

In the words of Eudora Welty : “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else… Fiction depends for its life on place.”

Have you read a novel where a few pages into the book, you feel that you have forgotten where the story takes place, and you have to go back to the first few pages? On the other extreme, I had read books where the description of the place was so detailed and long I started to get bored.

The trick, I suppose, is to get it just right so that the setting is described sufficiently, and inserted seamlessly into the story. I attended a talk on “Setting and Story “ at the recent Los Angeles Book Fair where a panel of writers shared their experiences and perspectives on setting.

Kevin Keating has just released his debut novel The Natural Order of Things. It comprises 15 interconnected stories set in a decaying Midwestern urban landscape. He said that he learned and has been influenced by the works of writers such as Charles Dickens and Graham Greene who were masters at creating a sense of place. Dickens, in particular, was a master of describing the setting of the working class and one of urban decay.

Jami Attenberg, author of three novels including The Middlesteins said that she was interested to find one wonderful detail in the setting, one thing that is thematically right.

Michael Lavigne, the author of Not Me and The Wanting said that he was greatly influenced by E.M. Forster’s Passage to India, in which the setting was critical to the story.

setting in fiction

(pic:penguin.com.au )

(I studied “Passage to India” as part of our English Literature syllabus. Guided by a superb teacher, Miss Tan, Forster’s setting became memorable. And the scene that somehow made the deepest mark was the courtroom scene with the punka wallah, a worker who manually operates the fan, and its symbolism.)

Lavigne also said that he prefers to set his story in a time setting of about 10 to 20 years back, as he would have a better sense and understanding of  the background and events.

This point came up in my mind when I recently read a contemporary crime thriller.

The cell phone played a big role in the story. The detectives were calling each other and emailing data from the phone from various locations. In some parts of the story, the narrative was greatly impacted by a missed call, or a cell phone flung out of reach. It wasn’t so long ago that the mobile phone had no role in the flow or narrative of thrillers.

The panel left a few pointers for the writer who has decided on the setting for his or her novel.

The authors felt that it was necessary to visit the place or location where one’s novel would be set. Take photos too, if that would help. Talk to the people, and get to know them really well, added Keating. That would also enable you to pick up nuances and particularities of their speech.

Lavigne added: “When you use setting from your experience and memory, you will know when it is authentic on the page.

“In good writing, the setting reveals itself, the way the characters do, at the right place.”

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money and marriage

It was reported that Michael Jordan and his new bride signed a prenup. (pic: bet.com)

The rich are different from you and me.

Couldn’t help thinking of this quote when I read about Michael Jordan’s prenuptial agreement with his new bride, model Yvette Prieto.

It was reported that should the couple end up divorcing, she will receive $1 million for every year that they stay married. And if the marriage lasts for 10 years, she will receive $5 million per year in the event of a divorce.

It was also said that the prenup will protect Jordan’s huge fortune.

I guess $1 million is small change to Jordan, in comparison to his total wealth.

Well, what about us regular womenfolk? What do we get, after a year, or several years of marriage. Let me count the ways.

The first year of marriage, he tells you on Valentine’s Day: “This is your day. You don’t have to cook” So we eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As the years go by, the Valentine dining out treats dwindle to two, then one. In some years, the treat metamorphoses into one of those standard heart-shaped box of candies.

The first year, he is all attentive to your words. As the years go by, a husband seems to lose the ability to hear the questions that you ask. Often,you have to repeat two, or even three times, before you get an answer or some kind of response.

Unlike Yvette Prieto, for regular womenfolk, you bank account may or may not grow during marriage.

But, then again, some things do grow in the relationship/bonding account: things like a shared history, and someone who knows your idiosyncrasies, and more importantly, someone who tolerates them.

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feline beauty

The color gray has never been lovelier. (pic: London Media/ The Daily Mail)

This post in the Daily Mail has a great photo selection of cats camouflaging themselves in their surroundings. But I was totally bowled over by the beauty of this image.

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