BY: KAMRAN H. IMAM, M.B.B.S, BATCH XVIII
Remember when we were expected to churn out articles, personal statements or self-explaining essays? In the past, it was for college admission and perhaps, in the future, for matching into residency programs. At those points in time, folks are compared to one another based on their writing prowess—he/she is a good writer—so it’s certain that they’ll pen an amazing statement.The problem is no one really understands that creativity comes in altering doses and in different formats. Writing a personal statement isn’t writing per se. It’s slapping down words for an outsider, based on someone else’s criteria. Real writing is creativity based on what’s in the heart. Most of the time, we can’t sell ourselves by being entirely honest.
An interviewer can poke holes in a resume because it isn’t entirely true—it’s a fraction of their psyche that was put on display after rounds and rounds of self-editing. Fiction, on the other hand, might be considered “untrue.” That is, after all, the literal definition. But nothing really has a straightforward and deliberate denotation. It might, in fact, be the most honest insight we might ever find. Fiction opens a window through the eyes of a writer. An author is always in control, always knows what character will do next, where the next plot twist is creeping up, the outcome of a life and death moment for a protagonist (hint: the hero usually survives). This god-like ability to control the outcome of the story is the tool through which a transparent image of said person is clear as day for readers.
The truth of the matter is- not everyone can write. But there are some simple guidelines to follow, after which your inner Hemingway can shine. Here’s how you get started:
1. Reading is Writing: The more you read, the better you get at writing. Plain and simple.
2. You’ve Never Written Enough: “It takes a million words of practice before a writer is born.” ~ Stephen King
3. Show Don’t Tell: #1 rule of fiction writing. Aladdin taking Jasmine on a magic carpet ride is what you’re going for—tour guide at Funland is not.
4. Adverbs = Enemy: Avoid at all costs, unless absolutely necessary.
5. It was a Dark and Stormy Night: NEVER EVER start a story by describing the weather or a character waking up in bed.
6. A Little Dose of Reality: Characters need to be relatable and realistic, otherwise readers can’t truly empathize.
7. Balance: A healthy mix of prose, exposition, and dialogue. Never too much of one.
8. Fear is for the Winter: Never be afraid of lopping off heads if your story demands it. (For reference, see: Eddard Stark)
9. Fear is for the Winter II—The Return: Never be afraid of breaking the rules set by authors before you. The goal is to engage readers. If you’re doing that and not following rules at the same time, by all means, continue.
10. Heads/Tails: If the beginning of a story is the most essential part, the ending is the second most crucial.
11. For the Love of Writing: Do it cause I told ya. Just kidding. Go write.
About the author: Kamran is a final year medical student with a passion for immunology. He is in the process of publishing his first novel.