I’ve decided that I’ll stop taking notes online, and just scribble them in the book itself. I didn’t really know before why I put everything up online, but I’ve figured that it helped me —
- Form an opinion about things and remember it. Reiterating the things that I scribble in the book helps me form patterns in my mind about dialogue placements, character sketches, timeline, narration, adjectives and adjective phrases, verbs and so on and so forth.
- I wanted to keep sharing what I think about the chapters with Damini herself.
I’m stopping putting things online because
- I will already read the chapter multiple times on a sentence or paragraph basis out of habit, so reiteration after scribbling is already happening.
- I don’t know why I wanted to share what I think about chapters with Damini. I think I just wanted to show how I’ve become a fanboy. Because I don’t think I have any clear greedy expectations as a fan 😁, and there are no common things I could talk about with her other than ask questions like an AMA like I’ve done in the past, which have been beneficial and informatory by the way, I’ll stop.
- Also, I think I’ve a natural instinct to get people interested in reading what she writes / wrote in this book (I did this review thing for some initial chapters of Damini’s erstwhile project called Cor Corand as well). But I don’t think I’m making a difference, nobody reads this blog, let alone regularly. I don’t think I’m helping people take my recommendation to read her, because there are no people. So I’m stopping. But I’ll continue this, to relieve this sort of itch, to make people read her on a personal basis.
The want to start with an observation
Damini’s book feels like a super hero story, in that usually, the world of two 9 years old children — what they think, how they feel — is often not known to adults upfront. It’s like Matrix’s code, one has to develop an intuition to see what might be happening in their minds and hearts. The super power Damini gives the readers through her story, is that everybody has a direct access to the lives of these children.
ABOUT CHAPTER 2
I scribbled about in the book like a mad man. I’ll only be able to jot down a subset of everything in this blogpost. Reminder to self — while writing the final review, consult the scribblings as well.
Oh, where do I even begin. Let’s start with an example of the observation I made above. Tharush’s father says “I think it’s worse for a child to live with two people who are always fighting each other. It doesn’t create a good home environment, you know?“
to which follows the following text —
“Home environment”, Tharush repeated, because he had never heard those two words together, and they combined to form a concept he had even considered. Homes had environments?
He thought back to all he’d learnt in school about the environment. That it was polluted, that there was acid rain, that a healthy environment was important for life. The implications for that inside a home… For him, home was where it was safe and cool, where there was food and love and his toy fighter jets.
“Do we have a healthy home environment?” Tharush asked suddenly.
See what I mean? This automagically allows humour to jump right in. Honesty precedes humour (I think?)
I’ve observed a writing style pattern that Damini uses to cut out the need for adverbial dialogue attribution (as Stephen King so suggests),
and I don’t think I’ve seen it anywhere else. It could be because I have not read many books altogether, but whatever the reason, I’ll explain the writing pattern with the help of an example of an excerpt from her book itself —
(Tharush asks this in the middle of a conversation he has initiated with his father, to know what a divorce is) —
“So what happens to the children?” Tharush asked, and his father gave him this look, as though saying, NOW you’re thinking.
The this in the above sentence is a solid placeholder and escape hatch from the temptation of using an adverb. This pattern, of placing placeholders and actually showing the reader exactly how a person might be thinking or what they might be doing, instead of redirecting that work to adverbs which would, in most cases, only be able to give a hint of that action or feeling is amazing. Adverbs are indirect, one step farther in trying to give an adjoining and explanatory hint about the verb they are trying to embellish, if that makes sense. I’m going to try this writing style in my writing, everywhere that I can. Another example of an adverb saved (without the placeholder) —
“No!” he cried, his voice high and panicked. “I didn’t do anything! I found it like this!”
Another one(without the placeholder) —
“Don’t be silly”, his father replied, prompt and warm.
Another one, and this one is the most genius of all —
Tharush let out a noise he didn’t even know he could produce. Some combination of an explanation and a wail. His fingers dug through his sweaty hair to somehow contain his excitement…
Another one?(without the placeholder) 😁 —
He lowered his eyes in some mixture of shyness and guilt as he awkwardly kicked the floor.
Hence less is not always more, especially in writing long form fiction.
The part of a dialogue that comes between the the words of the dialogue —
“Okay.” Tharush let out a breath of air he didn’t know he’d been holding. “Good”
I can practically see the breath gushing out while he said Good.
Deferring what happened to the latter part of a fragmented sentence, instead of writing it as a description in the beginning —
“Freak!”, Vikram suddenly shouted, and all at once, Tharush felt the wind expel from his body as the football collided brutally with his ribs.
A bad sentence (that in all likelihood I would have written) would have been a descriptive sentence that Vikram threw a ball towards Tharush immediately before where the bold part of the sentence above starts. But deferring it til the consequence of that action makes the reader excited and gets on reader’s nerve to rush to the end of the sentence. Talk about sentence turners (analogy to “page turners”). Another one —
“You can’t just cower before him because of what he might do, you know,” his mother replied, but her tone was appeasing.
The bold part keeps the reader up on his seat, still, looking for the behaviour of her tone, because she had shown, in the sentences previous to the above (not written here), irritation and annoyance towards the bully who had bullied her son, and her mother. So it was likely at the start of the sentence above, that she might have said this in an irritated, or angry tone, but the tone of the sentence was left hanging in surprise well up until the end.
Emotionally Charged Sentences —
“It’s…” Tharush began, his voice sounding raw and scratchy. His throat hurt. He wanted to curl up and cry, but he wasn’t going to give Vikram that power over him. Taking a brave little breath, he finished, “They’re idiots”
This complemented one thing so nicely — Tharush’s will to become strong and willed, because he wanted to fly fighter planes, and how could he fly them if he was expelled because he was weak. Another one —
…”Now why would you lie about that”?
He blinked, blinked, blinked, but that was useless against the burn in his throat and the sting in his eyes. “Vikram did it,” he muttered, wiping away before they got any worse.
The bold sentence could have been poorly written as a description, premeditating the fact that his eyes were becoming watery and stingy and his throat was burning. But instead Damini showed what was happening as the consequence of that. We all try to hide our tears from anybody present in the room directly looking at us, by trying to constantly and repeatedly blink in a futile attempt to not let tears fall down. He blinked, blinked, blinked. Again, PURE GENUIS! Another one (a person who has unexpectedly been caught doing something he was not supposed to be doing) —
Aakash jumped violently and turned, shoving (I’d have used a weak ‘hiding‘) one of his hands behind his back as his wide, terror-stricken eyes locked onto Tharush and his lips parted to form barely intelligible stutters.
In the first glance, one might think that a fragmented dialogue showing Aakash stuttering would have added upto this. But the fact that it is so detailed testifies that, that could have been an overkill.
Playing with colours —
His red shirt looked almost orange in the yellow light of the building’s lobby.
This is not a critical review of the book by chapter. This is an attempt to write a good review on good reads about the book at the end of my reading. It happens almost every time, with me at least, that when the book gets finished, I get this automatic feeling to write something about the book, but I’m almost never able to (unless I take notes along the way). These are the notes for the final review.
About the book’s looks —
The book is so pretty! I love the cover art. It was designed by Nivedita Sekhar, Damini Kane’s best friend —
And the font is pretty too! (one of the things that terribly puts me off from reading a book is a bad font. Good that it has a good one!).
I think the price is little high, but I don’t mind spending to read something so fresh and good.
The book has 21 chapters. I intend to read one everyday and write about each one of them.
About the Author
I have only followed Damini from the time she came into the radar of spoken word poetry scene in India. She performed a couple of poems which got uploaded on youtube after which I started following her on Instagram (where she is as active as a radioactive element). All I know about her is that she loves building and poring over characters, and she hates writing academic essays. She aims at acing winged eye line some day. And she has been reading and writing from as long as she can remember. She loves her notebooks in which she takes notes for stories, books, novels.
I talked to her after reading some of the chapters of the (now defunct) project called Cor Corand. She wrote a mammoth length series about a nation in conflict. And very exciting and unusual one at that. Unfortunately that didn’t get too much attention and she had to stop writing it. Good thing, she got her first book published!
She has also given me wonderful feedback for the only two short stories I’ve ever written, and patiently answered all my questions about writing good stories and fiction and more. I’m immensely grateful for that, more than she might know.
Damini is like a dreamy person for me. And I consider myself a big fan of her writing, opinions and honesty. I’ve never met her.
I like to write down the first lines of novels in my blogposts and reviews because I like to come back to read the first line again after I finish the book, just to be able to check if the initial instinct, that comes automagically after advancing a few sentences of the book, was correct. The first sentences of The Sunlight Plane goes —
The summertime sky in Mumbai was usually white, because the sun glared at it until it went pale with fear, and the blue it was supposed to be dripped off the surface of the atmosphere and fell into the Arabian Sea.
I don’t know about you, but I was immediately hooked at because the sun glared at it until it went pale with fear.
The book is about two 9 years olds Tharush and Aakash (both names’ meaning translates to sky). As soon as I realised this in the first paragraph, I was like woah! How could she go back to imagining things from the perspective of 9 years olds ? I could not do it, at least right now. Who knows I get ideas after reading this book. Anyways.
I absolutely ❤️ed the development of Tharush’s mom’s character, particularly her teasing Tharush as casually as walking.
After mom had told him to stop daydreaming and to hurry up, and after he looked off, she asked
“Are you still angry with me?” she asked, lilting laughter coating her firmness.
“Numbers don’t win wars”, his mother replied, her tone mockingly cheerful.
She gasped. “Really?” Tell me more, Oh Wise One.”. The metallic lift doors opened and she stepped inside with all the grace of someone used to winning verbal battles.
“I am in the middle of an extremely important battle,” Tharush replied, using the same formal flair his father had when Tharush interruped him when he was on the phone.
“Oh, my”, his mother teased. “Well, if you can take a break from your destruction and carnage, dinner’s on the table”.
Not to even mention because Tharush is nine years old, he battles with things he doesn’t know by guessing about them, or simply asking about them forthright.
“What does ‘carnage’ mean?” he called after his mother, turning off the lights and fan as he darted out of the room.
Tharush had never understood what stock of what his father wanted from the market, and why he didn’t just go get it. He could, alternatively, put it on the grocery list. But he didn’t. Why?
As amusing and real these blockquote scenes and dialogues look, trust me, they are hard to make right. I couldn’t have possibly imagined from a 9 years old point of view as I said before as well.
Some of the phrases / sentences / words were so fresh, I had to highlight them with a pretty light highlighter (because I don’t like bright colour highlighters, I use a fax paper highlighter, which is… much lighter) and read them over and over again, because once is never enough.
- Tharush thought the sky was of burns and bruises, white hot like that one time he accidentally put his hand over a candle flame, then pink, blue and black, like when he tripped on the stairs and smashed his knees.
- Tree-bark brown eyes
- Frayed, purée, moat, bristle (v), kooky, poring, likened, pressed, posse, cliques, chital.
- Tharush made a nasally whine.
- The whole character introduction of Tharush’s father which included bespectacled man with slanting shoulders and sharp nose, weighed down by his black office suits and navy blue laptop bag.
- With words too big to want to pronounce.
- …using the same formal flair his father had when Tharush interruped him when he was on the phone. (Show not tell)
- He didn’t even want to (see the tv), it just somehow happened. Something to distract his mind. (Show not tell)
- “What about his mom?” Tharush asked, because that was a question hanging over the table with the same overbearing presence of a twenty-foot tall bear (GENIUS!)
- The most hilarious thing of all were the descriptions made to decry Eggplants. I won’t jot them down here, lest you not enjoy it.
- I learnt that okra is ladies finger.
What I Learnt From Chapter 1 —
- Dialogue placements — When Damini gave feedback on a story I wrote titled For No Reason, she suggested to me read more about dialogue placements — when to put a newline, when not to, whether to follow descriptive or follow up fragmented text immediately after the dialogue or in a new line and the like. I gave a lot of attention to how she has done it, and will continue to do it for every fiction book I read from now on.
- Show not tell — In the two short stories that I’ve written so far, I’ve struggled with following this rule. I often end up writing a lot of descriptive boring text explaining something rather than using the power of metaphors, dialogues, narration, fragmented sentences, building images to actually show what is happening / has happened. There were so many examples of this from the first chapter itself, I can’t wait to read more.
Apartment, Asexuality, Clothes, Experience, Facebook, Folk, Gay, Guardian, Happy Folk, Indie, Indie Folk, Instagram, James Bond, Lesbian, Making Out, Manchester, Masturbation, Meal, Movies, OkCupid, Podcast, Relationship, sex, Sexuality, Skyfall, Sober, Sofa, Songs, Spotify, Women
After long, I’m back, because I’ve deleted my facebook and instagram accounts for good. Phew! Also because today was probably the most emotionally challenging day ever. More on that later. Here’s the weekly list of some good things to read / listen to / watch.
- Sex when you are asexual — Close Encounters Podcast (Guardian), given the fact that I might be asexual (I’m still not sure, but I’m pretty sure), this was very interesting. It was as if I was talking. If you have completely no idea what being asexual means, this is a podcast to listen to. Experiences about having sex “despite” being asexual are more common and normal than people think. But they are mostly experimental. For example whenever I have been with a women, I’ve find it absolutely and excruciatingly difficult to have sex, not because I can’t do it, but because I have never wanted to. So instead I’ve always helped them feel better. Some things are just the way they are — sexuality is fluid, in a way that, it can change for a person over their lifetime, or it can’t — people can have all sorts of orientations, or none at all. Sexuality is fascinating. This podcast is definite proof of it.
- This is not a good read, but a good dancing / swaying song with nice lyrics — Dance Around The Room With Me by Ana Egge (this is a Spotify link. If you are not on spotify search for the song on soundcloud.com)
- Poem by Shruti Ambast and other poets, on the prompt (given by Airplane Poetry Movement) – If Your Mirror Could Speak What Would It Say To You?
- My poem on the prompt above – Before I Bathe
- 300 word fiction stories on Electric Literature— Thumb Wars by Andrew Bales and The Boy on the Bus by Julia Ridley Smith
Andrew Stanton, books, Clues, Craft, Essays, Fiction, horror, Memoir, Non Fiction, On Writing, Short Story, Stephen King, story, storytelling, Suspence, TED Talk, Tragic, Writers, writing, Zadie Smith
- Laughing and Turning Away – Patrick Holloway (Short Story)
- Why Stephen King spends months, even years writing opening sentences, an interview
- Andrew Stanton – The Clues to a Great Story (Video, TED Talk).
- On Writing – Stephen King
- Changing My Mind, Occasional Essays — Zadie Smith
- The Lunar And Menstrual Cycles Are 28 Days Long And Now… – Yamini Krishnan
- Issac Asimov’s Foundation #1 (Science Fiction)
- Visitor, a short story by Amrita Brahmo (Trigger Warning – 18+)
- My Short Essay About Issac Asimov’s Foundation #1
- Why People Don’t Like ‘I Love Dick’ (Hint: Because it’s about Women) – Erin Spampinato – Electric Literature
- PoetryxPolitics, Dear Ophelia – Priyanka Sutaria – Warehousezine
- Confessions of a Medium Writer – Sravani Saha
- The Viral Bad Dating Fiction Story – Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian
- Why the above short story was written, a short interview in New Yorker by its fiction editor Deborah Treisman with Kristen Roupenian
- After reading the above interview, I listened (this time) to the story again, like you watch a twisted plot movie again to truly understand it.
- The Unedited Truth About Living And Loving While Both Numb And Electrified by Erica Price
In the slums (Poem) Beaton Galafa
Clear Night (Poem) – Charles Wright
- Vegetable Market Pantomime – a poem I submitted to The Bombay Review.