Exploring By Nazib Wadood

My sleep broke in the sound of the ghong-ghong coughing. The dam mice were still playing with their kids running and jumping behind the furniture. It had become almost an everyday matter. Just unbearable. But unavoidable. The house had become uninhabitable. The muajjin (the man who calls Muslims to the mosque for prayer) called for fazr (dawn) prayer in the neighboring mosque. I made myself more tight-throated. The disturbing ghong-ghong coughing continued to ring like a big wall-clock. A woman was going to die; she needed silence and tranquility but nobody cared. Cold covered us more tightly, and I hid myself under the old torn blanket. The old woman sat to die in the adjacent room. Sat to die! What a nice word! As a man sits to get married, people sit in discussions, as hens sit to hatch eggs, and a mother sits aspiring for giving birth to a baby, an inevitable and anticipated thing– the matter seemed almost the same! This was not wrong at all because the shadow of death was bullying over her for last three days, as if she was bargaining with the death. I could have felt earlier the somnolent smell of death flying and blowing in the house for last several days. The death was just a matter of time. So anybody could say she sat to die. However, talking about only one person would be wrong. Actually, four of the six members in this house had fallen into the jaws of death. In this ancient house of traditional pride, three people of different ages were breathing in the deadly black air overwhelmed with the smell of death. That air was heavy in frustration, uncertainty, fear and annoyance of many long years. This house was, as if, a grave or a graveyard– cruel birds of death were often striking in their weak hearts. I had guessed the matter days before. I knew, like the shading salted walls and worn-eaten rafters and windows of this age-old house, poles of these people’s lives too got rotten and eroded; one day it would collapse along with all its contents– the old discolored big almirahs and boxes, scratched and cracked mirrors, and all other things. One day we would dive into the damp underground like the American Twin-Tower. Actually, we all knew the day was not too far. Its proof was Alif Mama, the eldest son of my Nana (maternal grandfather). He was about seventeen years’ younger than his father. They looked like two brothers born immediately one after another. –‘It’s time for us to go’, one day Alif Mama was saying, ‘To bid farewell to this world…one by one… in turns.’ He took a breath and said, ‘You must bury me under the mango tree…’ I frowned. ‘The place is high, dry, and warm. You know it’s very cold outside, and my heart is too weak… ,’ he added. Is there any additional benefit of being buried in a high, dry, and warm place? What is the difference between having a strong or weak heart after death? I didn’t know. Mama (maternal uncle) sometimes said such type of unintelligible, mysterious things. Then the muajjin was calling for maghrib (sunset) prayer. That was sounding like a farewell crying. Yesterday night, my mother was saying to her father, –they wrongfully thought I was asleep– ‘She got at least one day more to breathe, isn’t it, Abba (father)?’ ‘Yes, it seems,’ he said. ‘I then make some milk-cake?’ she said. Everybody of this house liked the cake. And she could make it very tasty. Nana’s sister was born immediately after him. The two siblings were in fact in war with ageing that ultimately pushes men to death. They, children of a jotdar (owner of huge lands), still owned some mementos of that period, say, for example, this huge palace-like house with a large decorated gate, heavy pillars, thin small bricks cemented with lime and brick-pieces, big doors and windows of teak, and so on. Plasters and paintings disappeared every here and there in the building. They felt proud of their ancestors. They sometimes took on their old ornaments and cloths and displayed their mementos, which they had got from their ancestors. They touched these things to the forehead, and even kissed them, to express their gratitude and love to their traditions. My mother, immediately junior to her eldest brother, was short but a little fat. For frustrations of her long widowhood or pains in her back and knees, or for tough labor all day long, or, actually, for all those causes, she felt it hard to carry out the burden of this dead house on her weak shoulders. Yet she found no alternative but to serve all the members of this family– the father with a sheaf of thin, white beard like that of prehistoric Chinese wizards; the short-tempered aunt with a witch-like bent skeletal body; the eldest brother, fatty and flabby like the Japanese wrestlers, who wanted to eat every time everything; the youngest brother, most intellectual and lazy too, like the Pipu-Fisus of the Emperor Akbar the Great’s Idle-House. She kept her always ready to fulfill all their orders, demands, desires and requests. She did all works in a smiling face, and endured rheumatic pains in her waist and knees. Her aunt, a widow having no child, was lying in the bed waiting for her inevitable and imminent death. Alif Mama made a list. –‘At first the Aunt, though it was actually my father’s turn. He has passed over to reach the security line, as he had crossing over the line pushed my mother to die before him many years ago. But this time he has to go, after her sister.’ –‘Then?’ –‘Then comes your mother’s turn.’ –‘Aren’t you older than her?’ –‘That’s also a matter of crossing line.’ –‘Okay. Who is next, then?’ Heaps of flabby fats below his chin trembled. –‘Can’t the line be cut, Mama?’ His face looked gloomy. He shook his head to and fro. –‘No, my child, I’m the next victim. It can’t be changed, I guess.’ He didn’t take the youngest Mama and me in the list. –‘It’s a matter of time and age,’ he said, and added nothing more to elaborate. My grandmother died while giving birth to her last baby. I was born about six years after his birth. Alif Mama included neither his mother nor me in the list. Nana sometimes lacked commonsense. His sister was dying in the next room–trying to take all the air into her lungs but failing, and gasping like fish taken in the upland; her skinny, skeletal cage of the chest was moving upward and downward like the forge of blacksmiths; she needed a little silence and tranquility so that waves weren’t created in the air, so that waves didn’t carry away the last and the least bit of her breath; –but he didn’t care, rather continued to explode coughs– ghong… ghong… ghong…, as did the big wall clock in the gate of the municipal office. My mother’s steps made dragging sound outside the room. She would now enter her Aunt’s room, feed her lukewarm syrup and medicines, massage her chest with warm oil, and made the windows a little open. Let the fresh air blow in the room, though the last moment of the night was very cold. The burning wood pieces in the corner of the room were about to turn off. The patient got a little better. Then she closed the windows and left the room. My mother would now move to her father’s room to feed him warm syrup too. Her rheumatic waist would take some time to be easy, though, actually, it would never straighten completely. Rather, as days would pass, it would bend more and more. She felt pains in almost every portion of the body. The limb joints got hard and stiff in the cold. She couldn’t move normally. She was dragging her bent waist and stiff limbs in the dim light of a hurricane, as if she wasn’t walking, but carrying the shocking shakes of movement. She did it all day long and whole night every day. She couldn’t sleep, or didn’t need it. When she got a bit of respite, she availed the chance to have a catnap at the feet of her father or the head of her Aunt. These happened every day and night. Sometimes we didn’t see, rather it was better to say that these daily events couldn’t always attract our attention. My mother didn’t let me to do any hard work as she still considered me a little boy. However, in fact, I was then a strong young man of nineteen years.

Instructor Response

Thank you for sharing your work. You have a very effective style of writing. You transfer the horror and hopelessness of the situation, and raise interesting thoughts about dying. I assume this is part of a longer piece, but will keep my comments contained to what is there and not what might precede of follow.

This is essentially an essay. And you’ve done very well. But you’ve submitted to a website that teaches storytelling as a way to engage, entertain and enlighten. So if that is not your purpose, stop reading here and continue to perfect what you do so well on your own.

A story has a beginning and ending in time and has prose that carries action, suspense, mystery, etcetera . . . and in literary stories, the prose conveys logical scenes and characterization that is credible to change a reader so they will never be exactly the same as before the reading. Great stories usually deal with what it means to be human, which you may feel you convey in your essay, but without the story elements in the creative writing is more like a blurred photograph of an event rather than being encased in the action of being alive in a real world and knowing how and why change is occurring in the characters and the story. . . and in the reader.

Although there are glimpses of the setting, the reader doesn’t develop a sense of the scene. If I’m driving on a highway and witness a truck hitting a car head on, I carry that scene in memory in inexplicable ways forever. In prose, the author has to create with imageable words what the author wants to convey as scene.  It takes practice. For example, “The house had become uninhabitable.” is important and acceptable, but it is abstract and a telling by the first-person narrator, and could be a perfect time, with imagery, to establish setting.  In general, in any fiction writing, abstractions should be revised with concrete images and thoughts.  Judgmental words should be avoided and replaced with concrete image words, or simile or metaphor, or sensuous experience.

This example introduces the value for a writer to determine what they want to achieve. If it is admiration as a writer to result in fame and fortune, or to tell about their (authors’) experiences, feeling, and life-change, studying story is not particularly useful and often not necessary. But if a writer want’s to engage a reader, please them, and leave them with new thinking about humanity–without catharsis, victimization, propaganda, or untruths that are not objectively reflective of reality–then aspects of storytelling and the skill of writing creative prose need to be mastered: characterization, objectivity, writing in scene, in the main, showing scenes rather than telling, avoiding cliché and stereotypes, and most important, imagining and creating not remembering and describing (memoir, biography, and the literature of self.

If you’re eager to become a storyteller, here references for you for a start:

 

Resources.

*Essays: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/

*Story: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/literary-fictional-story/

*Conflict: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/conflict-in-literary-fiction/

*Dialogue: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/dialogue/

*Characterization: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/character-in-literary-fictional-story/

*Drama: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/drama/   

*Stories going wrong: https://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/how-literary-stories-go-wrong/

 

In text comments.

My sleep broke in the sound of the ghong-ghong coughing. The dam mice were still playing with their kids running and jumping behind the furniture. It had become almost an everyday matter. Just unbearable. But unavoidable. The muajjin (the man who calls Muslims to the mosque for prayer) called for fazr (dawn) prayer in the neighboring mosque. I made myself more tight-throated. The disturbing ghong-ghong coughing continued to ring like a big wall-clock.

A woman was going to die; she needed silence and tranquility but nobody cared. Cold covered us more tightly, and I hid myself under the old torn blanket. The old woman sat to die in the adjacent room. Sat to die! What a nice word! As a man sits to get married, people sit in discussions, as hens sit to hatch eggs, and a mother sits aspiring for giving birth to a baby, an inevitable and anticipated thing– the matter seemed almost the same! This was not wrong at all because the shadow of death was bullying over her for last three days, as if she was bargaining with the death. I could have felt earlier the somnolent smell of death flying and blowing in the house for last several days. The death was just a matter of time. So anybody could say she sat to die. Interesting. However, talking about only one person would be wrong.

Actually, four of the six members in this house had fallen into the jaws of death. In this ancient house of traditional pride, three people of different ages were breathing in the deadly black air overwhelmed with the smell of death. That air was heavy in frustration, uncertainty, fear and annoyance of many long years. Yes! This house was, as if, a grave or a graveyard– cruel birds of death were often striking in their weak hearts. I had guessed the matter days before. I knew, like the shading salted walls and worn-eaten rafters and windows of this age-old house, Yes, this is useful detail for setting and skillfully inserted. poles of these people’s lives too got rotten and eroded; one day it would collapse along with all its contents– the old discolored big almirahs and boxes, scratched and cracked mirrors, and all other things. One day we would dive into the damp underground like the American Twin-Tower. Actually, we all knew the day was not too far. Its proof was Alif Mama, the eldest son of my Nana (maternal grandfather). He was about seventeen years’ younger than his father. They looked like two brothers born immediately one after another. –‘It’s time for us to go’, one day Alif Mama was saying, ‘To bid farewell to this world…one by one… in turns.’ He took a breath and said, ‘You must bury me under the mango tree…’ I frowned. ‘The place is high, dry, and warm. You know it’s very cold outside, and my heart is too weak… ,’ he added. Is there any additional benefit of being buried in a high, dry, and warm place? What is the difference between having a strong or weak heart after death? I didn’t know. Mama (maternal uncle) sometimes said such type of unintelligible, mysterious things.

Then the muajjin was calling for maghrib (sunset) prayer. That was sounding like a farewell crying. Yesterday night, my mother was saying to her father, –they wrongfully thought I was asleep– ‘She got at least one day more to breathe, isn’t it, Abba (father)?’ ‘Yes, it seems,’ he said. ‘I then make some milk-cake?’ she said. Everybody of this house liked the cake. And she could make it very tasty. Start a paragraph here or it feels like a non-sequitur. Nana’s sister was born immediately after him. The two siblings were in fact in war with ageing that ultimately pushes men to death. They, children of a jotdar (owner of huge lands), still owned some mementos of that period, say, for example, this huge palace-like house with a large decorated gate, heavy pillars, thin small bricks cemented with lime and brick-pieces, big doors and windows of teak, and so on. Plasters and paintings disappeared every here and there in the building. They felt proud of their ancestors. They sometimes took on their old ornaments and cloths and displayed their mementos, which they had got from their ancestors. They touched these things to the forehead, and even kissed them, to express their gratitude and love to their traditions. My mother, immediately junior to her eldest brother, was short but a little fat. For frustrations of her long widowhood or pains in her back and knees, or for tough labor all day long, or, actually, for all those causes, she felt it hard to carry out the burden of this dead house on her weak shoulders. Keep your ideas related by logical progression to achieve story related information and progression. Learn backstory delivery as a subtle skill. Yet she found no alternative but to serve all the members of this family– the father with a sheaf of thin, white beard like that of prehistoric Chinese wizards; the short-tempered aunt with a witch-like bent skeletal body; the eldest brother, fatty and flabby like the Japanese wrestlers, who wanted to eat every time everything; the youngest brother, most intellectual and lazy too, like the Pipu-Fisus of the Emperor Akbar the Great’s Idle-House. She kept her always ready to fulfill all their orders, demands, desires and requests. She did all works in a smiling face, and endured rheumatic pains in her waist and knees. Her aunt, a widow having no child, was lying in the bed waiting for her inevitable and imminent death. Alif Mama made a list. –‘At first the Aunt, though it was actually my father’s turn. He has passed over to reach the security line, as he had crossing over the line pushed my mother to die before him many years ago. But this time he has to go, after her sister.’ –‘Then?’ –‘Then comes your mother’s turn.’ –‘Aren’t you older than her?’ –‘That’s also a matter of crossing line.’ –‘Okay. Who is next, then?’ Heaps of flabby fats below his chin trembled. –‘Can’t the line be cut, Mama?’ His face looked gloomy. He shook his head to and fro. –‘No, my child, I’m the next victim. It can’t be changed, I guess.’ He didn’t take the youngest Mama and me in the list. –‘It’s a matter of time and age,’ he said, and added nothing more to elaborate. My grandmother died while giving birth to her last baby. I was born about six years after his birth. Alif Mama included neither his mother nor me in the list. Nana sometimes lacked commonsense. His sister was dying in the next room–trying to take all the air into her lungs but failing, and gasping like fish taken in the upland; her skinny, skeletal cage of the chest was moving upward and downward like the forge of blacksmiths; she needed a little silence and tranquility so that waves weren’t created in the air, so that waves didn’t carry away the last and the least bit of her breath; –but he didn’t care, rather continued to explode coughs– ghong… ghong… ghong…, as did the big wall clock in the gate of the municipal office. My mother’s steps made dragging sound outside the room. She would now enter her Aunt’s room, feed her lukewarm syrup and medicines, massage her chest with warm oil, and made the windows a little open. Let the fresh air blow in the room, though the last moment of the night was very cold. The burning wood pieces in the corner of the room were about to turn off. The patient got a little better. Then she closed the windows and left the room. My mother would now move to her father’s room to feed him warm syrup too. Her rheumatic waist would take some time to be easy, though, actually, it would never straighten completely. Rather, as days would pass, it would bend more and more. She felt pains in almost every portion of the body. This front story might go better in verb tenses consistent with a story timeline. The limb joints got hard and stiff in the cold. She couldn’t move normally. She was dragging her bent waist and stiff limbs in the dim light of a hurricane, as if she wasn’t walking, but carrying the shocking shakes of movement. She did it all day long and whole night every day. She couldn’t sleep, or didn’t need it. When she got a bit of respite, she availed the chance to have a catnap at the feet of her father or the head of her Aunt. These happened every day and night. Sometimes we didn’t see, rather it was better to say that these daily events couldn’t always attract our attention. My mother didn’t let me to do any hard work as she still considered me a little boy. However, in fact, I was then a strong young man of nineteen years. Good job. You have lots of potential to achieve admirable writing!

All the best, WHC

  1. This is an excerpt of a short fiction I wrote recently. Your observations and instructions are valuable and help me writing better. Thank you for your kind cooperation.
    Sincerely Yours,
    Nazib Wadood

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

© 2018 Literary Fiction Workshop