Learn to tell stories without going to jail
By Nury Vittachi
The same guy got out of jail and decided to spend yet more time telling stories. But this time he received a contract worth several million US dollars and was sent on a world tour!
It just goes to show: the storytelling business is all about getting the details right. Ask Jeffrey Archer.
When I was a kid, I once wrote: “Teachers are witches and practice dark magic” on a note and sent it around my classroom. My teacher hailed my creative genius by enthusiastically declaiming: “Stand in the corner, loathsome wretch.” (At least she didn’t turn me into a toad.)
Yet history shows that a certain woman wrote more or less the same thing, but a bit longer, and sent it to a publisher, and got a completely different response: “Thank you for your story, Ms Rowling, where would you like your billion dollars sent?”
So unfair! These days, I still spend my time making up stories. But instead of being sent to the corner, I get feted and celebrated and paid real money—almost enough to live like a pauper (my ambition).
The mysteries of storytelling and the life of an author are going to be examined at the Singapore International Storytelling Festival which starts this week and runs until September 9.
The biggest mystery, of course, is how storytellers eat. You see, there’s not much cash in the publishing system these days.
It is a known fact that JK Rowling was paid all the money in the world for her Harry Potter books, triggering the credit crunch, the subprime crisis, and the global meltdown of the world financial system.
And she apparently wants MORE cash for her next book. Her desperate publishers are negotiating with various planets in nearby galaxies to see if she will accept alien currencies such as the Floatable Liquid Hyper-Shekel of Betelgeuse III.
People often ask me: “Is there any serious fiction-writing going on in Asia?”
I reply that more creative fiction is written every day in Asia than any other region of the world. Only we call it “news” and print it in newspapers. Most Asians, by necessity, become highly skilled in reading carefully-worded stuff and then trying to work out what is really going on. Thanks to the limitations of the Asian press, we have developed generations of hyper-analytical readers. Now all we have to do is write decent novels for them.
The other question people ask me is: “Are there markets for fiction written in Asia?” The answer is: yes, all over the place—they’re called “landfills”. That’s where most local manuscripts are lovingly filed. Asia has lots of publishers and readers, but little good fiction yet. One hopes the workshops and seminars of the storytelling festival will do something to change that.
Then it’s only a matter of time before some desperate writer in Asia receives the long-awaited response: “Thank you for your story: where would you like your billion dollars sent?”
Novelists are easy-going people and we accept any currency including the Floatable Liquid Hyper-Shekel from Betelgeuse III.
Come and see me at the Storytelling Festival and that pile of shekels may be yours.