Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things I wish I didn't know about how plots are structured

In any kind of fiction (lit, movies, whatevs), it usually adds to your enjoyment if you don't know beforehand what the plot is going to reveal. If the author reveals a big twist, it's helpful to actually be surprised. But if you've read enough books or watched enough crime shows/movies, it starts to become easier to figure out what's going to happen. Authors (and crime show writers/producers) are after all human, and seem to keep reproducing many of the same techniques.
(Don't read on if you take spoilers seriously.)
1.    For example:
In Perry Mason books, the beautiful woman who is suspected in the beginning is always innocent of the murder, even though she's probably lying about a dozen other things. Why is she innocent? Because Mason is in lust with her and believes she is, that's why. (Or, to mix worlds, he has, like Hastings, a "beautifully unsuspicious nature," as Poirot would say.)
2.    In a romance, the man (or woman, if the book starts from the man's perspective) who is first described in the most detailed manner is going to be the love interest. Especially if the eyes are praised. Every romance hero/heroine has beautiful eyes.
3.    In a Christie, if a woman is dead it's most likely the husband who killed her. In the beginning it might seem impossible that he did, but it was him nonetheless. (Yes, I can remember at least one exception to this rule.) (Okay, every writer has their own formula and prejudices, whether they're writing mystery or not.) 
4.    In any crime/mystery show, if one person is given a lot of screen time with no apparent reason, he/she's the murderer. If you find yourself thinking why is this dialog with the secretary so long, why don't they move ahead with the story... it's her.
5.    It's especially likely to be her if she's wearing a lot of make up or is presented as what's generally accepted as sexy in the mainstream entertainment industry. 
6.    If it’s a man, it’s most likely the one with weird hair (again, going by the mainstream entertainment industry).
What did I miss?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Weakness

Written in July 2005

Why can I not stand alone?
Why does strength elude me?
Why must I be a creeper
And not a majestic tree?

Why does the wind bow me down?
Why do I tremble at the roar of thunder?
Why am I not strong and unmoving as stone?
Or gentle and persistent as water?

And yet, why should I be?
If I lay my weary head on your shoulders
And be your companion part of the way…
Is that not what we are meant to do?

Is that not how we find happiness?


 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

I have been reading Americanah. It’s beautiful and brilliant, like all of her writing, though I still like the book of short stories – That Thing Around Your Neckbest.

Minor spoilers ahead for the book.

The relationships are fascinating – the characters, as well as what binds them together, so well drawn. I keep thinking about Ifemelu’s (the protagonist) relationship with Aunty Uju. It seems so typical of relationships forged at a young age, or probably any relationship that lasts long enough, as the people in it change, that you look at the other person and wonder where the person you had known earlier has gone. Sometimes, it’s just that you were too young to see the other person’s flaws; and of course, people may change. Ifemelu seeing her aunt – who used to be so cool, who she talked to about boys and sex – becoming a more submissive, pragmatic person, partly because circumstances have beaten her down… and finding less in common with her than she does with her son… It seems typical of many relationships but sad nonetheless, as you try to hold on to the relationship for the sake of what was, rather than what is.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Who I Am and Who I Want to Be

Here's how I would like to spend my time:
  • 20 hours a week: read blogs and books and watch TV
  • 10 hours: cook
  • 10 hours: laundry and other housework
  • 20 hours: eat and do nothing much - sit in the balcony, talk to the Guy
  • 10 hours: go out - concerts, cafes, shopping
  • 20 hours: write
  • 5 hours: learn and practice music
  • 5 hours: meet or talk to friends
  • 5 hours: exercise
  • 10 hours: do work for which I get paid enough to do everything else
Here's how I actually spend my time:
  • 55 hours a week: work and commute
  • 30 hours a week: play games on the iPad, read blogs, watch TV, online shopping (mostly window-shopping)
  • 5 hours a week: read books
  • 10 hours: cook and do laundry and other housework
  • 5 hours: go out - usually grocery shopping preceded by coffee, sometimes Marine Drive maybe followed  by coffee
  • 5 hours: talk to the Guy (eating is usually done with reading or TV)
  • 1 hour (maybe): write 

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Albatross

 Something I had written nine years ago, and the person who I had written it for recently reminded me of. I don't quite remember what I was feeling when I wrote this.

You are not a mighty ship
Crossing the ocean with disdain
You are but a small boat
Braving the storm and the waves


I am not your anchor
I cannot be your sail
I am only an albatross flying along
To give you company for part of the way.


But my destination is different
My wings give me flight
And I shall leave you
In search of my prize.


I just hope, with all my heart
That before I leave you to yourself and your fate,
I shall see you regain your direction
And sail on towards the sun.


So I can go on my way
With a heart unweighed by guilt.
And think of you, if ever I think,
With pride, with joy.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Long Personal Post (with Pictures!)

Wow, it's been long since I posted, hasn't it.

I swear I had started writing a post telling you about what I have been doing, but I can't find it. Not in my drafts, not in my folder for blog posts... not in my phone writing app. (It should be in my phone writing app.)

Anyway. Where do I start?

The Vacation
In September, the Guy and I finally went on our much-awaited vacation in the mountains. We stayed with friends who have the most amazing house (and of course, are the most wonderful people), and had the most relaxing time.

I mean, just look at this.



So we had this amazing vacation, and came back and in the next week, we had a few holidays (the 2 to 6 October long weekend). I had hoped to use the weekend to do more fun stuff in the city -- walk around, go to a couple of art galleries. Some low key celebration of our EIGHTH. WEDDING. ANNIVERSARY. (Sorry for the all caps. It's just so difficult to believe it's been that long.

And then. The Guy's sister decided to visit (with her husband and child), and they hadn't visited us yet, so we agreed. But we didn't get the quiet time and romantic anniversary celebration I had hoped for. They were just visiting for a couple of days, so I thought I'd still get a couple of days to rest and celebrate.

And then we decided to move. It was something we had idly considered, but thought would be too expensive. We weren't happy in that flat though. It didn't seem like home. And then I heard this flat in the same building, on a higher floor, was empty and we went up to see it. It was evening and as the door opened we got a view of the city through the glass doors to the balcony. And the moon was rising over it, nearly full and luminous.

What could we say to that but yes? And it's been three weeks since we moved in, and I haven't seen the moon like that again (barely seen it through the window at all.) Hmph.

But I still have this.



And then on our anniversary day, Monday, which we had both taken off, the Guy had to unexpectedly go to work because of a contract being signed - which is great, but hey, it was our anniversary! And then I fell ill that same day, more ill than I had been in a while, enough to have to take most of the rest of the week off work too.
 
And then... the Guy found out later that week that he had to go to the US for a week for work. That very weekend. When we were supposed to move.

But because he's such a darling (and I was barely weak enough to stand up) he stayed through the weekend, and took care of all the moving and some of the unpacking before he left.
 
So for a week I was alone in a new house. It's nicer than the old place, but also less nice in some ways -- it's sunnier and hotter and the noise of the trains from the nearby tracks is louder.

Anyway. The Guy got back soon before Diwali, though he was still jet lagged and we were both too tired from unpacking and housework to do much celebrating.




And now you're all caught up! What have you been doing?

Monday, September 15, 2014

(More Than) Ten Books That Influenced Me

When a friend tagged me on Facebook to post about ten books that influenced me, my reaction was, "Ten? How can I stop at ten?" 

But I started thinking about it, so here's the list I drew up in my head. 

All of Ruskin Bond that I've read, especially the Rusty books; reading Bond makes me want to write, even though I'll never be as good. 

'Pride and Prejudice' for totally enchanting me when I first read it at fourteen, and giving me Darcy as the lover's ideal: I still think he's much nicer than most romance heroes -- shy and arrogant but very kind to people he likes. 

'To Kill a Mockingbird' for introducing me to the idea that a novel with a child narrator could be so nuanced and grown up, and more recently, 'Mockingbird' by Kathryn Erskine and 'Room' by Emma Donahue for much the same thing. 

Jahnavi Baruah's 'Next Door' for stories that are so familiar, set in streets I've walked in and peopled by characters I might have known as a child, and so sad that I had to keep wiping my streaming eyes to continue reading. 

For both Baruah and Chimamanda Adichie ('The Thing Around Your Neck'), I liked their short stories more than their novels (though the novels are also brilliant), even though I'm normally very much a novel-reader. 

The Narnia books, which entranced me as a kid even though I dislike them now, and gave my life some magic when I badly needed it. 

The Harry Potter series, which I was a somewhat late but zealous convert to, which I rail at and nitpick but can't stop loving (and reading fan fiction about). 

The Hunger Games, for giving me the girl hero I'd always thought must exist. 

Enid Blyton's books, which I mostly despise now for all their issues, but which first told me that adventures are worth having (and I've never stopped trying since). 

And Agatha Christie, especially for Death Comes as the End (which I'm rereading now for about the 20th time) and Absent in the Spring. 

(There. That's somewhere between 10 and 40 books, depending on how you count.)


If you want to, share yours, either in the comments below or on your own blog (and share a link with us?)

Monday, September 01, 2014

I wished an old school friend on Facebook yesterday.

I wished an old school friend on Facebook yesterday.
It was her birthday, Facebook said, and then I remembered -
Of course it was. Birthdays were a big deal when we were in school. 
Last night, I dreamed of the town I lived in when we were classmates.
 
It was so beautiful. The big sunk garden outside my house
That I used to wander in. Sit on the swing and think up stories.
The hillock that we used to go on walks on, my mother and I.
The morning mist. The tall eucalyptus trees waving from a distance.
 
My school. The lovely church behind the pond,
The grove of trees we sometimes sat under,
The wide field we would walk across, arm in arm.
 
The hills and forests in the distance. The empty streets.
The hillock I had to climb up to get to my house.
All so far away now, in distance and in time.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I walk across the field in gloves

I walk across the field in gloves
that shield my diseased hands from the summer sun
I look at the butterfly that roves
and lands on a primrose, small and wan.
 
I walk across the field in gloves
The train going by blocks out the sound of the birds
I stop, watch the train as it moves
and walk on again, listening for those songs without words.
 
I walk across the field in gloves
faster now, as I think of my friend
and her children, all full of love
for me, waiting at my journey's end.
 
I walk across the field in gloves
but slower, with a smile I don't try to hide
thinking of the man who loves me
and will wait for me this evening by the fireside.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I'll write when...

I'll write when the time is right
And when life is true
I'll wait till I'm in the mood
When I'm not -- or not enough -- blue.


I'll write when I'm alone
I'll write when I am free
But I'm too sad to write
On the nights you leave me.

I'll finish that novel someday
And the play I started too.
But today I have blogs to read
And housework to do.