An addiction to words

Oh, how can you narrate a decent story in just a hundred words?” exclaimed my friend Kusum, dismissing my harangue cursorily. I was enlightening her about a postcard story competition, organised by Akashvani way back in the fifties. A hundred word limit and the prize was something like Rs 50 for the winner.

Naturally, I wanted to compete as I was bitten by the writer’s bug in my youthful days. Though it was mostly rejection slips that I received back then, that didn’t deter me from dreaming of seeing my name in print some day. I tried each and every genre one after another, poetry being my favourite form.

As for playwriting, I produced a masterpiece with an all-lion cast. Dear old maternal grandfather, aunts, uncles and a shy cousin from Bombay, all appeared as lions, young and old, in the play. This device, I thought, would give my characters total anonymity since I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings if the play were to come out in print. The editor of the magazine, however wrote back saying it was an interesting attempt but he would have liked the dramatis personae to be human rather than from a wild life sanctuary.

Many amateur writers have complained that a word limit can be a real deterrent to the unstoppable flow of imagination, though from my own experience I can say that at times, one cannot even produce fifty words at a stretch, try as much one might. And those lucky people who swear by a thousand words every morning before breakfast... well, what can I say of them, except that they are God’s chosen ones.

But even literary greats, I mean writers like Hemingway and Salinger, had their writer’ blocks, in spite of their being turned loose in writers’ colonies with a note book and pencil and a packed lunch every morning for an expensive package of three to six months of solitude and silence.

So then, those hundred words in a postcard had me hooked. I can now confidently claim that despite putting off one, it can be a true challenge. Two cryptic sentences can make a super duper suspense thriller after all.

For example, sample this: ‘She got up, put down her cup and left the room. It was raining outside. But no going back to the room for she had burnt all her boats. As for the future, it seemed bleak and grey like the falling rain...’ Well, fill in the blanks, reader, to notch up the centum words and go win that prize!

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An addiction to words

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