I was invited to judge an inter-departmental short-story-contest the Women’s Christian College, Chennai, conducted for its students on 23rd September 2022.
The meticulously conducted event made me feel completely at home among the 25-something participants.
After introducing myself, I gave them the short story thread. It goes like this…
YOU’RE WALKING DOWN A NARROW FOREST TRAIL, LOOKING UP AT THE TALL TREES. SUDDENLY, YOU FIND YOURSELF SLIDING DOWN A TREACHEROUS FURROW THAT THREATENS TO DRIVE YOU TO THE VERY EDGE OF THE CLIFF. THEN, SOMETHING HAPPENS…
The contestants had to come up with a creative premise for the ‘something happens’ part. The contest started with the count-down ticking on the clock. Sitting on the stage of the compact auditorium that had slipped into pin-drop silence by now, I eagerly watched the contestants tune into their creative faculties, to fill in the blanks on the story thread. When it was all done, I held the sheets looking at the fertile imagination of the contestants. It was a great learning experience for me… an experience that not only reinforced what I had learnt during my adventurous run with The Hope Mafia and The Astral Surge but also got me new insights
While creativity exploded out of all the 25 contestants who participated in the contest, only two of them came up with something that was highly relatable and logical. Theirs too was a highly creative work no doubts… but a creative work that was regulated and reigned in.
Now, that puts a noose around creativity. We have to be creative, but we can’t be too creative. We have to say something new, but we can’t go berserk with our imagination to the extent that it all sounds bizarre.
A scene in The Astral Surge deals with one of the central characters – Rebecca Merchant – being rushed into labor room for delivery. This high-voltage scene has some super dramatic moments coming in as things start spiraling out of control.
There are two vital aspects to this scene. One is the fiction part… where we are saying something that no one else has said… the creative aspect.
The other is the reality part. Everyone knows about babies getting delivered… the hospital, the labor room, the doctor attending to the patient, the nurses rushing to assist the doctor on the emergency, the situation getting out of control because of a sudden BP surge… all these moments are very real… as in, it happens with all of us. Now, this is the relatable part through which we link to the fiction part.
Which means, the reality part of the story is the scaffold that supports the fiction. By that reason, it becomes as critical and so, goads me to do the needed groundwork to bring in the needed credibility to these real-time moments… in terms of quoting the right medication administered to the patient or the way patient is turned to her side to alleviate the pain. All these aspects have to be handled carefully.
And, once done, I can, at the right moment, shift the gear to the fiction part of the story and accelerate from there.