11.12.15

And all the word hangs in the balance of what you don’t yet have

And all you are is a matter of what you are not

Until one day when you suddenly feel

Like the skin you have has been shredded enough

When you have been in all places unkind

The better place is somewhere inside

Freedom is in the colors you hide

 

Momina Arif

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Writing prompts for your writing slump.

Whether it’s a blog that needs running or a journal that needs filling. Whether it’s a short story you’d like to write or a novel that is lacking something. Here’s a list of writing prompts to help you out of a writing slump.

  1. Date. Any date. ( And why that date)
  2. If you were a book what book would you be?
  3. If everyone you knew were a song decide what song would they be. ( And why?)
  4. The sad golden man and his 7 trophies.
  5. A myth that I read somewhere: your face in this life is the face of the person you loved the most in a past life. A face you loved enough to ask for, again. But in this life we all hate what we look like.
  6. Things that make you sad ( vent, vent, vent)
  7. A story you keep trying to write but it just doesn’t happen.
  8. Words from the oldest poem you remember writing
  9. Lights out. 11 something in the night. It’s a run away bus. But you’re staying this time.
  10. “King of the Hill, I want to see you at your worst now.”
  11. First memory you have of being treated like an adult.
  12. Write a fight scene. Bring out the guns and the swords and the frying pans. Make it bloody. So long as you don’t forget to write about the thoughts.
  13. Write about a photograph you took of someone that isn’t around anymore.
  14. Write about the future. An anxious future. A prosperous future. However you see it.
  15. Write about a book that everyone hates but you really don’t see why.
  16. Write a crime fiction piece with the theme: colors.
  17. Make a to do list of impossible things (for you).
  18. Do you know about the Japanese myth of Bake Kujira? It is basically a dead animal (in the form of skeleton or a carcass) showing up as a sign of bad luck where once the appearance of a living one was good luck. Think dystopian fiction: all the endangered species that we know deserved better but are finished off now, show up in different parts of the world to give mankind a taste of extinction.

 

Lets make this tradition.

First of all If these writing prompts inspired you to write something and make a move out of your writing slump, please share (the excerpts or the entire thing) it in the comments and  I’ll randomly pick a few to get featured on the blog.

Secondly, for that writing slump of yours there’s more here

Lastly, let me let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to share more writing prompts.

 

Momina Arif

 

 

 

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10 Ideas to give your character the perfect chink their armor.

In order for your character to be endearing and memorable you must avoid the temptation of making them all good, all strong because the perfect character is not perfect. Your characters must be flawed because that adds to the struggles and that in turn makes a story. Here’s a list of ideas for non-traditional flaws (We are tired of  reading about chipped nail paint, nervous chatter and abusive relationships) that you can give you character. This will not only give them depth but it will also make your characters stand out and  create inspiration for their individual life stories.

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The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, a book review.

The Metamorphosis is a novella by Franz Kafka which was first published in 1915. It is known for the prestigious German Literary Prize, Theodor Fontane Prize. Gregor Samsa the protagonist lies awake contemplating in his body of a vermin the circumstances in which he transformed over the night. He is a traveling salesman with the immediate concern being his inability to get to work by 7, meeting the customers that he ever fails to build meaningful relations with and earning enough money to pay off his family’s debts which all now seem impossible to do in his new body and his inability to answer to door.

Over the course of The Metamorphosis the author lets us in on the personality of Gregor. He is a man overburdened by the responsibility of paying off his parents’ debts and he would have to work for the boss he detests for at least 5 years more until he can pay off these debts. Gregor shows acceptance in the face of his work life and in the face of his transformation which becomes the theme of this story. We also see that Gregor is responsible and he has shocked his workplace and his family by his inability to get to work on time given that he has previously never missed a single day in the 15 years that he has worked at that company. As the clerk suggests when he shows up at Gregor’s place to determine the reason behind his absence. When the clerk is told that Gregor is feeling ill he demands to hear the excuse from Gregor himself but he is unable to speak, or at least communicate other than in an ‘unhumanlike’ way.

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After the threatening appearance form the clerk, Gregor’s father sends for a ‘doctor’ and a ‘locksmith. He the author tries to show us the means by which Gregor’s father is trying to deal with the Gregor’s situation that he has yet to be properly acquainted with. Meanwhile Gregor tries to open the door which proves to be an arduous task given that he trying to open it using his mouth. When the door finally open which Gregor harms himself in the process of achieving the clerk tries to take off after seeing Gregor in his ‘condition’, his mother is in shock and the father is devastated.

Gregor tries to speak to the clerk realizing now that the clerk shouldn’t have sees him like that. When Gregor tries to approach the clerk his father stops him by forcing him back into his room. Grete, his sister takes care of Gregor by letting him have rotten food (which now Gregor enjoys) and moving the furniture in his room to let Gregor have space to move around and get used to his new body. Over time the lifestyle of his family changes due to the fact that he was their only earning source. We don’t get to read much about it in detail but Gregor and his father have a strained relationship that can be seem from the cruel disposition that Gregor’s father has towards him.

The family itself faces several changes such as the father taking up a job in the bank, the  mother stitching undergarments and Grete attending school to learn shorthand and french. The family rents its rooms to three gentleman that have been problematic lodgers but are an added source of much needed income.

Grete’s violin playing is introduced as an abandoned hobby that one day she decides to take up again. Whens he plays the violin the lodgers want to her it as well. Gregor when he hears the music leave his room to get closer to his sister so he can let her know he appreciates her playing but this results in the lodgers finding out the ‘creature’ in the house. The family are given a notice by lodgers of their decision to leave as well as refusal to pay for the time they have already spent.

Grete protests and says she wants to get rid of Gregor the ‘monster’ so that the family could live in peace. Her father agrees and Gregor wishes that he should die as well if it would make his family’s lives easier. Later that night Gregor dies and his death is a mysterious one as he is found shriveled by the charwoman. There is a really sad ending to the story with Gregor dying for the sake of his family same as he has lived for the sake of his family.

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Gregor’s family is depicted as selfish people who revert to seeing him as a burden as soon as he transforms and is no longer able to support them financially. We see that every member of his family is able to earn and contribute to the family’s finances yet Gregor took it solely upon himself to support his family and work tirelessly to the extent that he sacrificed his own life for theirs. We see their despicable behavior towards him from the fact that they barely sympathize with Gregor’s situation and are unable to stand the embarrassment of his situation and how it interrupts their lifestyles. We also see that their entire response towards Gregor’s situation was confining him to his room, not looking for a cure or a solution to his problem.

The metamorphosis is very insightful regarding the exploitation that people face from their own families. Gregor Samsa’s transformation can be considered a hyperbolic depiction of his mental decline due to the hectic hours he worked for his family’s livelihood.

The story in general is sad, it shows us the brutal reality of how people treat you when you are no longer an asset but a liability. While reading it you might wonder how the entire story revolves around the consequences of a man turning into an insect over night but no one mentions how or why this happens. Gregor is the altruistic symbol in contrast to his selfish family.

 “The more meekly he behaved, the harder his father stamped.” Franz Kafka , Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis is a strange book, one you might even enjoy reading. It is hard to understand what exactly the moral here is besides not being too selfless with anyone, even your family.

Let me know your thoughts on this book in the comments below.

Momina Arif.

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – A review. #PrideMonth

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy  is the ultimate pick for Pride Month and it will take you places. It starts from the old Delhi, a time before Coca Cola had laid siege to the Roofafza empire. We meet Aftab when he is just a boy with a beautiful voice and a dream to change. The story takes us to a war-torn Kashmir that declares ‘normalcy’ over pools of blood and it walks us through a reminiscent India where it is luck to have been born a Hijra (Transgender) , but bad luck to have been born a Muslim.

Anjum, formerly known as Aftab now lives in a graveyard that she over the years extends the boundaries of and strategically constructs into her own ‘Jannat Guesthouse ’. One day she finds a baby left on her pavement along with puppies and it seems her dream to become a mother has come true. She is without any doubt the most vibrant of all the characters. A combination of dark humor, sensitivity and sharp edges knotted into something unique. Anjum isn’t a typical, victimized transgender character that we come across because she has an added streak of authority and dominance. This gives new and impressive dimension to the community she represents.

We come to know her hand-picked guests as well: Tilottama, puts us at a lack of words in her description as she impersonates being nothing so easily. She is retold as an emptiness that three different men who love her have to come to terms with. Many believe this Architect turned freedom fighter is written in Roy’s own reflection.  We also meet Saddam Hussain, a vengeful dalit waiting for the opportunity to avenge his father death who was a victim of the Gujrat Massacre, something him and Anjum have in common. Unlike many that requested entrance and were shunned away, Saddam Hussain is granted entrance to Jannat Guesthouse and he become one of Anjum’s closest friends.

Speaking of Prose and the writing technique I feel a sense of relief having already read A god of small things as it makes you accustomed to the chain of events that Roy never delivers in the form of a actual chain. Indeed the book doesn’t follow a traditional plot system. As you read you already know how it ends and what brought the characters to that particular end or where it started.  The plot is woven with confidence that reflects in the personalities of the characters and demonstrates Roy’s impeccable craft.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is a tragedy, a love story and yet it has an ending that fills us with hope. It comes off as a loud political statement sometimes and as a historical retelling at other times. It speaks of loneliness of these characters and yet the endearing company they come to have. The characters are marked with deep loss and profound victories. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness gives us the most flawed and fragile characters that put us in awe of their magnificent, unabashed survival over the course of many years.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is her first take on fiction since A god of Small things which despite its heightened acclaim (and Booker Prize Award), put the author under the unwanted spotlight curated by the image of a pretty face that writes a good piece of illicit romance. She renounced that image with the involvement in the non-fiction world. And after 20 years returned with a book has much of her experiences engraved in it. The book gives us a backdrop of Muslim resistance in Gujrat. It gives the leftovers of the Red Fort and The Khwabgah, surviving on the dreams of a past life as Mughal footnotes. The book moves you to tears with its depiction of the Hijra community which also becomes the most prominent feature of it.  It uses a homeless PhD. and a freedom fighter like stops to catch our breath. The reason why I picked this book for the Pride Month tag is because it is an ode to the marginalized, the minority and the misunderstood.  It is about their struggles that don’t exactly show up on the map but have helped determine the boundaries and the boundless.

Share your thoughts on about this book in the comments below.

 

Momina Arif

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How to make writing a book easy.

Writing a book is always hard. Getting it through the agents and past the editors to the publishers and all the way to the readers, having readers to begin with, is all very hard business. But the hardest part of writing is the ‘writing’. The hardest part yet is getting the pen to the paper and getting the words all out before you can decide if they’re the right ones.

The problem is that as a writer you’ve got a lot to express and more than often you have the skill to express it artistically. What you seem to lack is  the work ethic to consistently do the one thing you’re actually good at. At times you might even have the idea. It’s not that you don’t enjoy it. It’s the expectations that get in the way of the process. So here are 10 steps that if you follow will lead to nothing but pure, unedited, unaltered, practical process of actually writing.

#1 The way to really write a book is to begin writing it.

http://journalporn.tumblr.com/page/6

It may sound as the most useless piece of advice but this is only real advice. You start and it doesn’t matter how you go about it but you keep going. One chapter day or one page a day. If it takes all the strength you’ve got, write one paragraph a day. But if you want to become a writer then write.

#2 And if writing it is important, trust me finishing it is also important.

Staying motivated enough to finish is important. Writing a sentence is easy. There is no mountain between one sentence and another and yet crossing enough sentences till you get a book seems like the most overwhelming task. The idea is to be consistent so as to make it less overwhelming and to keep the interest alive.

#3 Making lots of decision.

http://shabuki.tumblr.com/post/117155964457/meganportorreal-i-think-i-write-so-much-so-one

Being can writer can mean, at times, making lots of decisions. You have to decide what your book is going to be about. You have to decide your word count milestones that you can practically achieve in the day. You have to decide what you really want to write about because the lethargy that you face when writing might as well be a sign that this theme, or this process, or even writing, is not for you. Don’t let boredom go unnoticed because there is so much we can learn from it.

#4 Let the book happen.

https://bookshelffantasies.com/book-blog-meme-directory/

One of the things that I find as repetitive advice is that you should let your trusted critiques have a look at the early drafts so they can point you into the right direction. And this is one I don’t agree to. If you let someone in on the process early on you don’t get to have the book or the draft, or the paragraph, just whatever you’ve got for the time being, all to yourself. You don’t get to write with the privilege of being completely unfiltered. And you can’t be as invested in your book if you feel in the early stages that it’s not even your book anymore, it’s just some book someone expects you to write. Isn’t writing hard enough as it is when dealing with your expectations that you go around getting involved in other people’s expectation. My advice would be to let the book happen. Writing isn’t meant to be done under a spotlight or a magnifying glass.

#5 Take the chapters seriously.

Every chapter has to be a short story of its own. It has to be a whirlwind of all the required events, all the crevices searched, all the literary devices exhausted. It has to be as complete as possible and incomplete enough to engage the reader into the next chapter. This is not necessarily a writing technique but this is how I like a book to be. I want to feel so lost reading that I’m surprised when the chapter is over that it was only a chapter that felt like a whole lifetime. This also doesn’t mean that the chapter has to be very long. It just has to be a fulfilling reading experience.

How is this writing advice? As a writer your commitment to the book should reflect in the amount of attention you paid to writing individual chapters. Individual chapters are not as paralyzing a commitment but if you write a good enough chapter you might find yourself wanting to top the last one.

#6 Blog about your book.

http://blog.bookbaby.com/2017/11/can-your-blog-become-a-book/

This might be one of those advises that contradict the previous ones. But here’s how it’s different. Blogs are different from editors or critiques. There is a variety of responses you come across and some the most unpredictable ones can make you realize something about your book. Blogging about your work is in a way staying productive while the book is in process. Blogging is can prepare you for how a ‘real’ audience will react to your work.

#7 Don’t let your ideas go missing.

https://organisedorgana.tumblr.com/

Write your ideas down on a small piece of paper and throw it in a jar. That way you have a magical jar full of ideas. If that is not interesting enough you can fill up a journal with all of these and as a writer there really isn’t anything more aesthetically appealing than the ‘written’, written word. If not that either, use Evernote which is the best app for writing out there.

#8 Leave the editing for later

The writing cannot go hand in hand with the editing. You need to write with one kind of mindset and only after you’re done with that can you do the editing and with another kind of mindset. Writing has to be done freely and without the fear of any kind of judgment. Editing is quite the opposite. You have to judge your own work like you’re the professor presented with an assignment that reeks of last minute copy pasting.

#9 Don’t procrastinate

http://journalporn.tumblr.com/page/6

As the author of many things unfinished I can say that when it comes to writing there is nothing more difficult. It’s full part procrastination with only a pinch of initiative. You can add a little reading here and there to compensate for the time you don’t spend writing. It goes far because you’ll turn in the research paper that you have due but you won’t write the poem. I do a lot of what I call ‘planning’ and not as much of ‘creating’. We can all be such wonderful writers if stop doing that.

#10 Enjoy it.

If you’re going to stress about it, which is mostly the case, you will not enjoy writing anymore. And then the worst has already happened. What makes you a writer is primarily how much you enjoy it, not how much you stress about it.

Share your writing tips, and suggestions with me in the comments and let me know if this helped you start writing.

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Momina Arif.

 

 

Featured Image Credit: Vinstage

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