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"The Craft of Storytelling: Insights from a Short Story Writing Class"

Exploring the Power of Words, Editors, and Translation in the World of Urdu Literature"

By Naveed Published 4 months ago • 4 min read
"The Craft of Storytelling: Insights from a Short Story Writing Class"
Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

In today's short story writing class, we were treated to an inspiring lecture by our instructor, Ali. He passionately conveyed the idea that words are the most fundamental tools of a writer, much like a musician's instrument, a painter's canvas, or a sculptor's chisel. Ali emphasized that words are the building blocks of a writer's art, and through them, writers create a deep connection with their readers.

Throughout the session, Ali generously answered numerous questions from students, and his extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of literature were evident. Listening to Ali's lectures gives a glimpse of his thorough research and dedication to the craft of writing.

Ali drew upon the timeless example of Leo Tolstoy's monumental novel, "War and Peace," written in the 1860s, to illustrate the intricate detailing that often characterizes popular historical novels. He stressed the importance of these details in emphasizing the relationships between characters and the significance of their interactions. This discussion shed light on the complexity and depth of storytelling, especially in historical narratives.

One of the intriguing insights Ali shared was the idea that crafting a collection of short stories can be even more challenging than writing a novel. While a novel typically revolves around a central narrative, a collection of short stories requires each piece to stand alone, conveying a unique message or lesson. As an example, Ali mentioned Rizwan, a writer from Karachi who translated fairy tales from various cultures into Urdu in the 1990s. Rizwan provided his own philosophical insights before each fairy tale, enriching the reader's experience.

The lecture delved deeply into the idea of narratives with the capacity to transform lives. Ali elucidated that individuals across the globe tap into their personal life encounters as a means to gain wisdom and evolve, thus making storytelling an influential vehicle for conveying these insights and expanding our global awareness. He explored how writers hailing from a variety of backgrounds and cultures enrich the collective human consciousness with their creations. In this context, he highlighted Ernest Hemingway's celebrated novel, "The Old Man and the Sea," which garnered both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

For those who, like me, have backgrounds in fields such as medicine or law and have limited exposure to literature and history, this class offers a unique opportunity for a second chance at literary exploration. Ali underscored the significance of having a skilled editor in a writer's success. An editor's role is to refine and improve the writing while preserving the writer's voice and ideas. He stressed that in the Urdu world, writers should seek professional editors and be willing to compensate them fairly, drawing from his personal experience of hiring an editor for his Urdu diabetes book.

Ali's discussion also touched on the importance of recognizing and valuing one's work. He encouraged writers to ask for compensation for their efforts and emphasized the need to end the culture of pro bono work in the Urdu community. By monetizing their work, writers can elevate the value of Urdu content and contribute to the growth of the language.

The lecture delved into the power of the written word to influence readers' thoughts, distinguishing between journalism and fiction. Ali offered a glimpse into the rich history of Urdu literature in the Indian subcontinent, comparing it to the trajectory of English literature. He noted the discrepancy in the number of copies printed and sold in Urdu literature compared to Western literature, underlining the need for writers to view their craft as a hobby or creative pursuit alongside their primary professions.

Class members observed that works of Urdu literature, as well as Hindi literature, often achieve international acclaim when translated into English. This highlights the importance of translation in sharing the unique stories and articles from the Urdu world with a global audience. Syed Mujahid Ali, who writes in multiple languages including Urdu, English, and Norwegian, serves as an exemplary model for such multilingual literary endeavors.

Finally, Ali proposed that contemporary woman Urdu writers, such as Lena Hasher, should have their works translated into multiple languages, including English, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and German, to gain international recognition. This endeavor would broaden the horizons of Urdu literature and introduce its rich tapestry to a global audience, marking a significant step towards promoting the language on a global stage.

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About the Creator


Let me submit, writing and solitude are essential. Writing is not possible in Mahfil Yaran. Why a person writes, how he writes, why he thinks, nothing can be said with certainty.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (5)

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  • Denise E Lindquist4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this!! 😊💕❤️

  • Elaine Sihera4 months ago

    Very interesting and useful read. A lot to appreciate in it!

  • So fascinating, and translating stories is a skill all its own! Xx

  • This was so fascinating to read! Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Mother Combs4 months ago

    thank you for sharing your useful insights

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