Writing engaging stories- An open house conversation with Preeti Shenoy
- April 19, 2022
A writer somewhere, keeps it in his mind that what he is writing should be understood by many. And if not understood, it should make the readers hold on tight to their seats shouldn’t it? Well, Preeti Shenoy is here for your help as she explains the essential element of a good writing piece, or writing engaging stories that capture people’s attention.
She is one of the highest best-selling authors of India who got featured on the Forbes longlist of the most influential celebrities in India. Her work has been translated into many Indian languages. And she gave us the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with her for all the aspiring writers. We got to ask her questions and she was humble enough to answer them with enthusiasm. This delightful workshop left us with some interesting insights.
How to make a story engaging and what are its elements?
When asked about what she considered to be engaging in a story, Preeti very clearly demonstrated the true essence of it in a story. A story or a plot can be engaging only when it doesn’t let its readers lose interest. A story should keep the audience on their toes, with their full undivided attention on the characters. There’s a lot of influence of social media on authors, it is an era of immense distractions. So, she suggests the aspiring writers to keep the book in touch with the readers, hold them in one place in order for it to never lose the readers. How can you do that? Well, find and add a hook that keeps them engaged. She demonstrates that with an example out of her own book and how it grabbed the attention of the readers because of that surprise element- the hook. It should last until the last line, which would definitely make it highly engaging.
What should be the starting point of writing a novel or manuscript?
Well, nothing should keep a writer at bay and so, Preeti suggests that you can start with anything. There’s no such thing as a starting point, just write what comes to your mind and show some creativity. For example, start with the protagonist in action or a particular incident enfolding, it can be a general statement as well. It actually depends on what your story isand if it is a short story or a novel.
How to make characters relatable and make a story surrounding them, with what kind of pace should be set for them?
How can a writer make characters relatable? Well, Preeti clarifies that they have to have a backstory already planned out in the author’s head. Every little detail, his childhood place or favourite things, everything should be decided already however you don’t have to write that all in the book. She suggested a google search idea that helps in forming a backstory for characters, ‘20 questions to form a character’, as it helps in coming up with ideas. Often writing characters is considered very hard because it is like having a child and you have to decide things for them, hold accountability for their actions. As for the part about making a story surrounding them, she simply suggested for it to be relatable, moving, heart-touching and innovative. And, if you are writing a story, write more about your character and the story formulation and, set the pace with that.
How often should we transform reality into fiction?
When asked about this, Preeti clarified that she doesn’t often transforms reality into fiction except for her book, ‘Love a little stronger’ and she said that it can be interesting. You can write about events that transpired in real life but also, do not forget to use your imagination. Base your story or characters on real life if you are writing a piece like that, but use creativity with it so that it connects with the masses.
How to resolve writer’s block?
She suggested a couple of steps that could help with the writer’s block even though, she herself has never experienced that, clearly reflecting on her generosity to help the aspiring writers.
- Retrain your steps back to the writing part
- Do something you like to do, a hobby like painting
- Read the piece from the beginning
- Do not romanticise the extra-ordinary plots
- Set realistic bars, not too high
- Write about what comes easily to you
- Maintain the flow once you get out of writer’s block by stopping the piece mid-sentence
- Read it from the beginning (yes, again!)
- Try not to take long breaks and complete your book.
How are the techniques of writing a short story and novel different from one another?
It usually depends on what you are writing, if it’s a novel then it can comprise long chapters, long story and acts as well. If it’s a short story, then the use of limited words is necessary and being a little choosy of words and plot. Ypu should focus on the specifics for short stories whereas, with novels, you can write with an ease and be liberal with your thoughts as suggested by Preeti.
How to go beyond the personal narrative whilst, adding a conflict and show it into the story?
So, whenever a writer is writing, personal narrative happens to come into the picture but that highly depends on the plot. How can you get rid of that? Well, Preeti suggests that plan out the entire story before writing and that helps in phasing out the personal narrative. How can you add a conflict? Well, she exclaimed that rather than saying it or informing it, show the conflict. Express your thoughts, conflicts rather than merely mentioning it, describe the course of action. For example, 2 characters, a girl and her grandmother having a conflict about marriage ideology as in the characters should have different perspectives, desires to have a conflict.
We also interacted with the audience of the workshop and as engaging as that was, we couldn’t have felt more delightful about the whole workshop. It helped the aspiring authors and well, made us realise that once again, a conversation with an artist can never not be interesting.
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