Although I now live in the coastal area of India, I had not seen the sea till the age of 20 years. I grew at a place that may appear at the center of the Indian peninsula, in a careless look. So there was no chance of sighting the sea without a planned trip, which actually happened when I was in the final year of my graduation. It wouldn’t be a surprise when our class unanimously chose to travel to a coastal place for the industrial tour.
My parents, however, saw the sea a couple of years before I saw it. While I was away from my hometown for my graduation, they had a long vacation during which they roamed around several places and beaches of south India. My father narrated an incident from the vacation which I found interesting then and even now.
My parents had shopped for nifty handicrafts made from seashells as they looked quite novel to them. Being a cautious buyer, my father asked the shopkeeper, if the shells that they have used are original. The shopkeeper had a hearty laugh and explained why he shouldn’t be worried about the originality. Seashells are novel for outsiders, but not for the locals. The locals get them in abundance naturally. If they decided to make those seashells artificially, it would cost them a fortune.
I gave this example to one of my friends when I was explaining to him why it is easy to write a memoir than to write fiction. Any interesting plot or a story requires, something that Sol Stein calls, a crucible, in his wonderful book, Stein on writing. Crucible is a constrained environment in which the characters are stuck and cannot move out easily. Their struggle within the constraints becomes the genesis of an interesting story. A memoir is easy to write as we ourselves had lived that natural crucible. A fiction writer, on the other hand, has to painfully craft the crucible, so as to make the story inside it gripping and interesting. That makes fiction writing harder. I am never thus surprised when even a great movie has plot holes. I am however surely surprised when there are no plot holes.
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