Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Bad Story


Everybody these days knows how to write a good story. This is because everywhere that everybody goes, there are people who will tell you the ten steps you can follow to become a genius. There are even brain gyms that you can go to in order to become one. So really, there's no need for me to pontificate on how to write a good story. You've probably written one yourself. Or maybe several. You've printed them all out and you've put a copyright line on every page so that nobody steals your story. Even if nobody ever reads it. 

Writing a bad story, however, requires a special kind of talent. The ability to go through with something even though you know it's garbage. It is actually very like garbage because the stench of its wretchedness threatens to blow up all over you, but you have to tie up the ends and take it someplace else. In a bad story, you don't name the people. They usually just go by pronouns. She sat by the window, staring at the falling raindrops. Or He walked along the beach, counting the stars. In a bad story, people are usually doing things with feelings ten times over what you feel in real life. They are walking around with over-sized feelings. The sleeves of those feelings are falling off the shoulders of its people. So they all look a little funny. Odd. 

In a bad story, nothing ever happens. The writer thinks this is clever because in real life, nothing ever happens. But this isn't true. In real life, a lot happens. You can get run over by a bus on your birthday. But the writer thinks a story like that would be too melodramatic. It would lack...what is that word? Verisimilitude. Ah. So instead, the writer will write about a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, doing nothing but thinking. Thinking profoundly, intensely, so seriously that every line, every word, is a badly made burger. Everything is spilling out of everywhere. 

The people in the story are always unhappy. They normally don't eat breakfast. Or sit on the potty reading harmlessly. No, they are like disturbed wasps. They are like angry cats. They have no use for happiness because that would mean they are just ordinary. And are partial to onion chutney just like everybody else.

The people in the story often die. Of slap-worthy causes like boredom or disenchantment. They kill themselves poetically. The blood will spiral out of them like a song. Or they will die innocuously. Ironically. Dying ironically is fashionable in a bad story.

The writer of the bad story thinks the story is haunting. Very few people will get it. The story was torn out of the writer's rib cage. It came from the heart. It came so suddenly and so easily that it must have been inspiration. Not the other painful answer- it may have been imitation. 

The bad story sits like curdled milk in the heart of the writer. Nobody wants it. The writer does not want to throw it out. Surely, it can still be made into something else? Something more. Something everyone wants. And so, the people in the bad story will go on waiting. They will not be allowed to die. The irony of this will escape the writer. 

Then, many years later, the writer will come back to the bad story and laugh. The writer is now a doctor. Or maybe a professor of English. 'I can't believe I wrote this!' the writer will smile. And then, the bad story will be put away within the pages of a dog-eared book. Wishing to be forgotten and remembered all at once. The people in the story will now relax. They are finally at rest.



sandhya said...

Lovely! Love your way with words, GB.

Ritu said...

What a unique view point. Am sitting and wondering if I ever wrote a bad story ... I most probably have.

The Soul of Alec Smart said...

Ahahahahaha! Nailed it :)

Here are a few more observations. A bad story:

1. Is often a poem that doesn't rhyme

For effect or maybe just so it fits vertically on toilet paper, should someone decide to print it in its rightful place. Sometimes it's also a haiku. This means that the URL to this story is longer than the story itself, and it ends before you're done saying "W Tha Faq"

2. Challenges laws of nature and physics and everything in between.

"She turned to tell the shadows to go away, but realized they had gone long back and she was alone"
"He swallowed the sun" (Yes, true story)

3. Pfffts at pain, bitchayz!

"The blade glides on her bare wrist and a smile escapes her lips."
"As he falls freely down to the ground, he feels happiness enveloping him."

I have many more, but I think I should just stop.

PS: Please know that the captcha on your comments section acts very weirdly most times. I am submitting this comment after 10+ attempts. Previously too, have given up trying to comment because of it.

Deepak G said...

OMG..i have a bad story having all the ingredients u mentioned on my blog hehe...

Srinivas said...

Woah, did you write that after a penance or something? Added to your trademark humour, there are several phrases - even lines - which are very hard-hitting. I enjoyed it.

And when I was reading the post, I was like - where did this line come from? "You can get run over by a bus on your birthday." :D

vishesh said...

I write bad stories. Lots of them. They make me happy because they can be sad without me being sad. They can still enjoy being sad because he and she are like that. They don't have a damned chemically triggered body which tells them being sad is bad. They don't know the difference between sad and happy anyway, because you know the difference only if you know both. They just exist with nothing much happening to them. Maybe Beethoven's 9th plays in the background, maybe Subbulakshmi sings in the background, maybe a car honks but they still sit there, waiting for something, with nothing actually happening.

He is like that endless scoop of ice cream waiting to melt away yet unable to do because he lives in a vacuum. She is that piece of nothing, that little speck of dust, covering a few more inches of a forgettable(and soon forgotten) word sheet, stored forever as a few KB in a computer soon to be thrown away and then backed up into new ones.

Good stories are good only because people think it is good. They could mean nothing at all. They are like the endless sands of some desert you read in a book or the cold of the poles; You cannot connect to them, but the bad stories, you want to like them, you want to hate them. You want to think the writer is not worth the name, that he is a lesser creature than you. Yet, you know, the verisimilitude resembles your life. You wait to be run over by a bus, 'He' waits for the paper to be burnt and turned into ashes or flushed down the toilet like a teenager trying to lose an answer sheet.

It doesn't matter. There is good writing and bad writing. There are good stories, there are bad stories. There is Rajinikanth, there is Saarukh. There are sexy women who walk red carpets, there are women and men who appear with nothing on the internet having sex. There are tribes in different parts of the world who don't wear anything and are made to dance for the 'sivilised'. It doesn't matter, everything exists anyway. Outrage, love, kindness, anger, hate- they can do nothing to alter what was. They could move things to resemble new things but you cannot remove what was.

If you know your story is bad then you have read or written a good one. If you know your language is bad, then you know good language or at least that something better exists.

I am a bad writer. There are so many things to talk about, yet billions of years of existence mean nothing more than exactly that- billions of years of existence. I cannot see it in any other way. But I can imagine dinos roaming or Rhinos in the zoo. I can see roaches, I can read Kafka. I can imagine the pain of a women who was raped but I will never know it. It could be worse than what I know or what people tell me or it could be less. All I know is it is a terrible thing. I cannot add words to such things, yet I try. I try to render what I do not know, what is nothing, to silly words that when you read, bring recorded sounds to your head to mean something.

I am a bad writer. I am a terrible writer.

The Priest said...

Ingredients you forgot: ridiculous metaphors and analogies (e.g. sitting like curdled milk in the heart of the writer; brain gyms; badly made burger--everything is spilling out of everywhere). The writer can become, aside from a doctor or a professor of English, a children's-book author.

The Visitor said...

Whoa! GB, I just loved the words, metaphors and analogies - just the very same things that The Priest seems have pointed out as being ingredients of a bad story.

And Vichu, is that you? Respect brother.

Now I am confused, if a person likes a story labelled "bad" by virtue of its ingredients, is that person a bad appreciator?

Anyway, I enjoyed reading the post, as well as the comments.

-Uncle OT

PS: Do change your word verification widget to something that that is more readable.

Nilu said...

LOL...too funny for words!!!!! Don't ever stop writing!!!

R's Mom said...

But But write the best stories ever...Where is Mayil part 2??? *Still waiting in hope*

Errr...was this post by anyway inspired by all that childish stories I put up on the blog *Wonders*

Arunima said...

i had all the ingredients of a bad story, and you have clipped my wings :-)

Sig said...

Hahaha...i think I have a few tucked away in the folds of my old blog and journals. I thought I was being angsty and brilliant.

There's a kinda of carthasis in writing a bad story :)

Karthik said...

Having written so many of them myself, I couldn't stop saying 'eggjaactly' every now and then. ;)
And about, 'I can't believe I wrote this' - that happens every time I get back to my old stories and read them. Hope someday I'll reach a position when I don't have to say that. :)
Nice one.

GB said...

@Sandhya- Thanks :)

@Ritu- Who hasn't? :D

@Alec Smart- Haha. Yup, people always die so neatly. There is never a bloody mess. They never miss the artery. About the widget- I'll try to fix it though I have no idea how!

@Deepak G- Well, this post was born out of many of the drafts I found sitting in my hard drive, so we've all done it at some point in time :)

@Srini- The birthday thing...I've come across so many obituaries in The Hindu in which someone died the day they were born. And that's real life...but somehow, it almost never happens in books in an ordinary, common way.

@Vishesh and Visitor- Everyone likes bad stories and everyone likes good stories. Same way we like bad movies and good movies. It needn't be a judgement on who you are or even your tastes. I hate so many books and movies that people (the masses and the arty ones) think are great, but so what? We've all written that bad story when we've felt creative. It's something very dear to us but there's still a niggling feeling that maybe the story isn't as great as you initially thought it least, I've felt that about my work many times. Like I said earlier, I was clearing out my system and found so many drafts I was clearly in love with but stank at the same time.

@The Priest- May the Lord be with you. Just one point though- brain gyms are not metaphors. They actually do exist and by that name. Try googling.

@Nilu- Good or bad, I won't :)

@R's Mom- Whatdoyamean your stories?? So much is happening in your stories that they never can be bad :D

@Arunima- Go ahead and write it. Bad stories are so much fun.

@Sig- Lol. It's a bond across all writers :)

@Karthik- Arrey, your stories are full of intrigue and action and so much is happening. I just wish I could read them all in one shot. I have this tiny laptop that makes online reading difficult and I don't have the time these days to read anything with much concentration :(

Radhika said...

Oh, dear. i think everyone who is reading this/has read this is guilty of all the things you mentioned!

karthick r said...

<< ZZzzzzzzz nostalgia >>

In my previous company we had a forum [Chennai-INK] where people used to post their stories and poems. Bitten by the literary bug, one fine day, I sat down to write a story about a College guy 'Ram' and his classmate/friend/crush 'Ramya' and I even went ahead to name it 'Ram-ayan' [you get the drift right ;-)]
Half way through I felt the story to be cliched and introduced several twists in the plot. you know just for the sake of it and to sustain readers interest.

And what's worse, I sent out the word doc to a whole lot of people asking them to leave their feedback.

Boy! back then, I must have had nerves made of steel. Now, after 5 years not only I laugh at myself for such an attempt but also warn myself - "DUDE! Never,ever write such a story again in your life. Even if someone threatens to take your life at gunpoint. Die basta*d die but JUST DONT write such a story."

Have I improved now?
Well! I think I am getting better. But it's a long road ahead.

Nice one ya :D
~ cheers.!

ummon said...

ouch, ouch, ouch, OUCH!!!!!
maybe pronouns are just easier, when you can't find the right names. :(

Ramya said...

GB, AS usual ;) u rock.
But this times comments are awesome loved reading each one of them.

Same topic different faces!!!

Say Cheese said...

I am a bad story teller. :P Confirmed!! LOL

dipali said...

Utterly delightful, GB!

Double Inverted Commas said...

Such a different post!

Tee said...

Hi GB,

I read your old blog back in college -I'm a fellow Eng Dept survivor- and was glad to come upon this! Engaging as always.



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