The Out of Print workshop Opening Act at the Times Literary Carnival 2013 held at Mehboob Studios in Mumbai was aimed at writers with some experience. Its focus, to examine what the opening paragraphs of a short story can reveal about the story.
In a tribute to Alice Munro, short story writer and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for literature, we used the beginning of Dimensions the first story in her collection Too Much Happiness for the exercise.
Participants shared what they each discerned about the story from the three paragraphs that were read. It was an impressively perceptive discussion as both a sense of the protagonist, Doree’s character, and her narrative began to emerge. It is impossible not to feel compelled, even in those first paragraphs, that an enormous tragedy drives the story, as was made clear by the conversation.
In the second part of the workshop, the writers were given the opening section of a story I wrote, She Can Sing that was recently published in Far Enough East. They then had to develop a story based on those paragraphs. And share them at the end of the session.
There was surprising coherence to the structure and plot in the works that each of the writers produced considering that they only had twenty minutes; a feat of focus and concentration, given the many observers, and the milling background of the carnival. Not only did most of the outlines reflect the disparity that is evident in that beginning section, but also the displacement that the child, the main character, experiences. What was striking, however, was how distinct each approach was in tone.
As is the case with Out of Print workshops, the writers were offered the possibility of having their stories published on the Out of Print blog. Three of the stories have been chosen. They are by Suneeta Rao, Indu Parvathi and Monika Pant. They are remarkable for the the individuality of the author voice in each and the manner in which the child in the story transcends her difficult beginning. I am proud to share them on the blog.