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THE FACTS OF FICTION

Many people, of all age groups , are drawn to the idea of writing, particularly a story of a novel; fiction in other words. Having said that, I am asked in my classes and interactions all the time – “how do we come up with the story, the characters, the plot?” My simple, one-word answer is – LIFE! The expression ‘fact is stranger than fiction, is perhaps now, truer than ever. Be it a book, a film, a play or a short story; the primary basis for the stories and characters is drawn from real life. From people around us, from events and scenarios that form part of the everyday rhetoric of a family, a town, a city, a region, a country and the world. The fact about fiction is, that art imitates life. Reel life is drawn from real life.

SETTING
Let us look at the broader premise, or ‘setting’ first. Be it crime fiction, romance, drama or suspense; invariably the setting will be directly inspired by a true situation (terrorism, climate change, a particular industry such as advertising or banking). The premise will also centre on a fact – a cricket match-fixing case, a famous murder case, a political development, etc. Or, of course, in the ilk of stories of films such as Monsoon Wedding or the brilliant & insightful Kapoor & Sons, which simply reflects familial dynamics and other issues that exist within families. All true, all factually based.

CHARACTERS
Then of course there are the characters. Analyse for a minute, which characters you have liked/hated/remembered the most, be it in a book or a film. Invariably, the answer will be characters that were ‘real’. When I say ‘real’ character, I mean people whom, even if we do not identify with, ones that have multiple facets to their personalities. Who are not ALL evil or ALL good? That is unbelievable. Believable, relatable characters are just like you and me. We have our histories, our childhoods, our individual unique experiences that shape us into the people we grow up to become, complex, layered, or in simpler terms, people with pluses and minus- es, with good and bad qualities, and normally with at least one main ‘internal’ problem/angst that we are trying to overcome. These are the characters that leave a lasting impression in our minds, whose journeys, struggles, failures and triumphs are palpable, and evoke empathy and understanding. Again, if not the characters per se, but their ‘emotions’ are ALL real, drawn from real-life situations. One current example that comes to mind is the character of Shiva from the just-released Bhramastra, where Ranbir Kapoor portrays a happy-golucky DJ with some special abilities that he is reluctant to embrace, and thereby accept his true purpose and calling. His coming-of-age saga is at the core of this story

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