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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

 great expectations gift literature

Tea and a good read – timeless classics.

dickens book to film

David Lean’s “Great Expectations” said to be the most faithful and among the best adaptations of literature to film. ( Pic: moviemail.com )

 

How wonderful to get presents that reflect what you love.

One that I received recently was a bundle of Collector’s Library books, which included “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

The book was part of the syllabus of my English Literature class in high school.

Of course, we had to learn and memorize the book for the coming examinations. But with Dickens’ genius writing and the guidance of a wonderful teacher, we grew to love the characters and the story. And at the same time, though we might not know it then, we were learning a little about life and love as a young teenager from the stories of Pip, Estella, Miss Havisham, and the other characters.

At that time, my best friend in class was K. When we heard that the British Council was screening a film based on the book, we were so excited and decided to make an outing of the event.

I remember going to K’s house on that day. I met her sisters – all very smart and strong-willed like her. I remember, after that, we ran to the bus stop, hoping to make it in time for the screening.

In the darkened theater, when the movie started, it was quite amazing to see the characters that had lived in our imagination for most of the year come alive on the screen.

K and I went to different colleges. We kept in touch for a while. Then she got married; we started our careers, and we lost touch through all the busyness of young adulthood.

But I believed that, for both of us, the year that we studied “Great Expectations” was an enjoyable time in our growing up years.

 

 

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writer's helpers

Flowers from the garden, to soothe the eyes, while I work on my book.

 

 

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kampung memories SingaporeI’m pleased to giveway three signed copies of my book Kampung Memories – A Life’s Journey, Revisited.

Kampung means “village” in Malay, and my book is part social history and part memoir of life in the kampungs of Singapore before they gave way for urban redevelopment.

It combines interviews with the residents, explanation of Malay customs, and my own memories and reflections. Artistic sketches by Malaysian artist Fausin MdIsa and old family photos add to the experience of the book.  More about it at the book website .

Please email me your name at hsharifah@hotmail.com, by September 28, to participate in the draw. Thanks and good luck.

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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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fiction excerptAn excerpt from my upcoming work:

Yunus could tell that the young man admired his mother, June, for all she had done for her children.

Yunus’ admiration for her also grew each time he stopped at their home. He admired her not only for her determination, but for the fact that she did not become bitter and still took pleasure in injecting beauty into her humble, everyday life.

He feared that he was falling in love with June. He knew that it wrong for him to have those feelings as he was a married man. When he imagined the faces of his wife and children, he felt a jolt of guilt. He would try to dismiss the situation by telling himself: “I’m just being silly.”

And yet he could not deny himself this feeling. It was like waking up to a cloudless blue sky: it made him feel vital, happy and he looked forward to the start of each day.

He wondered if June suspected that he had these emotions. He knew that he often stared at her when they were talking, and once when they were sitting on the sofa, without realizing it, he had moved his hand close to hers. She did not move for a while, then she abruptly got up and excused herself to fetch some snacks from the kitchen.

Yunus wanted more from their friendship. He wanted to hold her in his arms. He wanted to buy her presents; he felt that it was time that she was pampered by someone, instead of being the selfless one all the time.

But he knew that those desires could only be in his imagination. It was dreadful to be between two worlds – the real world of his home and the dream world of this pulsating new love.

But that was all he was entitled to at that moment.

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cue from nature

March marches in with an invisible tempo of energy. March makes one feel that the serious business of the year has really begun.

The daffodils have already burst with color. The birds have returned.

Should I still be meandering, “germinating” ideas instead of buckling down and really working?

Soon the cold will no longer be an excuse. I need to march along with March.

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kitchen wisdom

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

― Agatha Christie

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