Monday, March 22, 2010

MERANTAU (2009): Lessons For Writers of Creative Fiction

Once in a while, there is one film that shocks you out of your mental comma. MERANTAU (2009) is one. From the point of view of a writer, other than being a rabid fan, I can say that I learn very important pointers that I failed to learn in many writing guide books or in some writing seminars where people talk about the 'philosophy' of writing.

1. The Importance of Timing
No one likes a story which takes a thousand years to happen on the pages. But people do want to know what happened a thousand years ago. MERANTAU is written a la Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. It takes 4 days and 4 nights in detailed sequence. It is that tight:
First night - travelling
Second night - sleeping in a construction site
Third night - fighting starts
Fourth night - end of story after a dozen fighting sequences and pints of fake blood.

2. The Importance of Investing in Detailed Description of the Hero
Unlike a film director, the writer does not have the luxury of visual implements & machines in writing fiction. However the writer's tools are words she uses and there are still as potent as any machinery. As the photography obssessively traces the hero's physique - strands of his hair, his skin and breath, a writer uses words to describe her hero.The 'female gaze' is absolutely helpful if used innocently, matter-of-factly and honestly. So what if the hero is lean, sinewy and has eyes that are like dot dot dot - that's my innocent, matter-of-factly, honest 'female gaze'. Next, invest in creating a backstory for the hero - his origins, his obssessions, his strenghts and weaknesses. The reader will be hooked, and they'll stick with you till the gory end.

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