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Advertise on the Tentacle

March 16, 2016


Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – First of all, write what you know. You live in a kampung, so write about that. Tell me the color and shape of the houses.


Let me know if there is a garden in the back. Are there fruit trees? Are there potted plants? What color are the plants? Are they big or small?


The next thing is to look at the people. How do they talk? Are they different or the same? Are they smart or dumb? When a girl wears a head covering, is it black or is it colorful? What do the colors tell you? When a guy wears a shirt, what is on in? Is it a rock band, place or animal? Is it pink?


The next thing is to examine the mosque or surraw. Is it small or large? Does it have a gold dome? Look at the people who attend. Do they just go on Friday? Do they attend a few extra times, or do they attend every meeting?


When a person lectures, what do they say? When they talk, do they speak about what's in the Qur'an, or do they speak of ISIS. Do they encourage you to go to Syria, or do they tell you to stay at home? What exactly do they say?


Now, we are going to build our character. Remember, nobody can recognize your person. It has to be a composite of many different people. Is his voice loud or soft? Is he tall or short? Is he handsome or just plain? Does he walk fast or slow? What about his clothes? Does he wear a shirt that says "Sarawak for Sarawakians?" Does he take drugs? Does he travel? Does his name tell you something? All of these things are important for our character in the story.


Now let's build a character. You have 30 minutes to write down a character you would like in a story. Remember to use adjectives, those words that describe a person, place or thing. They are very important in having the reader imagine a character.


Okay now, let's start writing the story. Usually, you have to know the end of the story before you begin writing, but, in this case, we will start from the beginning. In a story, there are three sections, a beginning, a middle and an end.


Let's start by introducing our characters. "Ahmad was doing his homework." Not very good is it?


How about "Ahmad, a tall lean boy, was studying his equations for algebra." Better.


The next sentence tells me where he was studying his equations. "Ahmad, a tall lean boy, was studying his equations for Algebra. A rooster crowed outside his brown kampung house which was on stilts to protect from the rising river." Now we know he was in a kampung house. Remember, write what you know!


Let's start with the middle of the story. There should be conflict. I will make it easy for you. Let's have a conflict between Ahmad and Hantu Bangkit or Hantu tinggi or Hantu Ke lala. Here, you must imagine what it's like to meet those ghosts. If you don't want to do ghosts, you can make our hero meet religious leaders like Sunan Giri or Sunan Ampel. Even Justin Bieber.


 Okay, let's go back into our groups and have a conflict or a problem that arises from meeting them. You have 30 minutes.


Now, the last of our story includes a problem that was resolved. Did Ahmad find a way to solve his Algebra problems? Did he find a girl friend? Did his sick mother become well? Could he play the guitar like Justin Bieber? Let’s now write how the conflict was resolved.


I will be giving this talk about creative writing in about an hour. Wish me luck!


...Life is good. . . . .


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