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Elements of a Story: The Whispers

I'm compelled to begin each post with a meta. That way, my blog posts seem less like essays or dissertations, and more like diary entries, or web logs. So here goes...

I started this blog a little over a year ago. The main purpose of this blog was to experiment with styles of writing, and find an effective outlet for all the subjects I wish to rant about; saving my classmates the agony of having to listen to them. As I wrote this blog, I've experimented with so many styles, and have received comments claiming that my work is a shameless copy greatly inspired by so-and-so author/work. Fact is that I simply chanced upon that style. I read, so obviously, my work shall reflect the styles of those I admire, but I've worked out so many styles without even knowing that they exist, only to be informed of them later.

Recently, I've been struck with the seeming absence of whispers as an element of a story. The more I've thought of the subject, the more I've been convinced that they would make a great story. Of course, ill-fated as I am to be denied any recognition in the literary field, I am sure that some person, fortunate enough to be born before one as talented as I, has already used the whispers to his advantage.

Think about it. A whisper. An anonymous message, a rumour. A suggestion, a hint of schizophrenia. The murderers ultimate defence. A slight nudge to the plot, impunity from falsehoods. The potential of the whisper is amazing!

Yet, I have not invented the concept of the whisper. It's something I borrowed from real life. The whisper, a source of all information, correct as well as incorrect, plays a massive role in our everyday lives. How many times have you listened to the whispers? Think about it. Almost all the important decisions in your life have been because of the whispers, things that you may have heard or read at some point of time in your life; something you may have paid scant regard to at the time you found out about it, but which has since influenced a large part of your life.

Think about it: how many times have we come across information that is nothing more than a rumour, and yet believed it to be true? How many times have we shared this with others. Don't believe me? Have a look at all the emails which are forwarded daily, to such numbers which would put a spammer to shame. Think of all the posts on Facebook, which are re-shared faster than a virus can grow.

Us weaklings are not the only ones affected by the whispers. The whispers have, in the past made or broken presidential elections, sent a man on the moon, got him back from the moon to a desert in the USA, fought nuclear wars, developed technology that people could only dream of. Yet, for all the whispers do, we have never given them the true recognition they deserve. Instead, we attribute their actions to other factors, leaving the whispers as a non-entity.

Perhaps this is how the whispers work. They like to work behind the scenes, shaping and changing the world, and yet remaining unknown. If we were really aware of the presence of the whispers, perhaps their power would end. Well, not their power, but they would change from whispers to blowhorns.

It will be an interesting story surely, one that recognizes and awards the whispers their true place.


  1. A story, maybe. But not a written one.

  2. How different is the written word from the spoken one? And are not both methods to tell a story?

  3. The written story, the visual story, the dramatic story, the story that's in your imagination and the narrative story are completely different from each other.

    And not just in their "physical" structure. It may be a story of some type other than the written one, or the acted out one, which rely on concrete or at least indicatively concrete elements. "Whispers" do not have that power.

  4. That, Avro, is the shortcoming of the storyteller; or so I believe.

  5. Nope. These are INHERENT characteristics of the format. No one can transcend them, no matter how good he is.

    One of the most awesome things we discussed in this semester's HSS course [Reading Literature] was the different shortcomings of various formats. As far as discussions go, it was one of the more productive ones.

  6. Also, I just read your rant on Harry Potter. I hate you! x-(

  7. Until the end of the 19th century, people believed that writing must be rooted in realism. The trouble with courses is that they close minds instead of opening them. Dare to dream, a failure to imagine possibilities is the worst kind of failure.

    As for the rant on Harry Potter: I'm flattered.

  8. @Avro: Can you give me an example of these 'inherent' restrictions, or direct me to some relevant source?

  9. Okay, let me clarify. The course was awesome, and very open-ended, so my views have been anything but restricted by it.

    Let us assume that we will not mish-mash our techniques- a surrealist interlude in a realist drama [like a docu-drama or a biography] would look kind of stupid, unless tyou started off with that style.

    In dramatics or written literature, where you have to rely on concrete data to extract information, it becomes difficult to do certain things.
    For example, in a story with an omniscient narrator [one who knows everything that's happening] consider a scene where a person looks angry. You learn later that she was actually sad. It would be silly to *write* "She looked angry" and then change it to "Actually, she didn't look angry- she looked sad. I lied to you on that page." would be silly.
    However, in a visual medium, if the actor is good enough, she will automatically convey an expression which YOU would interpret as angry in the first scene and then realise that it was actually a sad expression.

    This is the same thing with the concept of "whispers", by which I assume you mean the way information gets distorted/ modified as it travels, is immensely difficult to process with written media due to the following paradox-
    1. To track the whisper as it travels, you need an omniscient narrator.
    2. To actually appreciate the change, you need to be a first-person narrator.

    Of course, you can just write, "He said A. But unfortunately, she heard B." to get around this, but it would be trivial and bad writing- at least as far as the "whispers" part is concerned.

    However, because in a visual narrative, the different types of narrators can easily merge seamlessly, this can be accomplished.

    Of course, it is always possible to sit down and force yourself to write as you mention in your post- what I'm trying to say is that it was inevitably end up being contrived and poor in quality.

  10. Avro, do take some time to read Midnight's Children, or One Hundred Years of Solitude, or any post-modern work, and you'll think differently about lying sounding stupid or about a surrealist interlude in a realistic drama. I'll make it easier for you: here is the link, but open it only when you are done reading the whole comment.

    Moreover, a narrator need not be omniscient. That is a restriction imposed by realism.

    And I believe that you are again looking at a very restricted application of the Whisper. I wanted to look at it in a broader sense.

    Finally, this was just an idea that struck me. I'm not aware if such literature exists, or if it is feasible. I would definitely like to experiment with such literature.

    You are right. It will be much easier in a visual form, like a drama or a film, but that is no reason to say that it cannot be done in the written form as well.


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