‘Writing is more of a craft than an art; it can be taught as well as learnt’

He is a leopard of many spots. With ancestral origins in Punjab, but born in Kenya and raised in London, he dabbled a bit in film and creative writing before settling down on a full-time career as a writer.

Author Harish Sharma believes that “writing is more of a craft than an art. It can be taught as well as learnt”. According to him, it is planning and construction rather than the actual written word that makes a good novel.

The author read out excerpts from his debut novel Prankzz, recently at Atta Galatta, Koramangala. At several points, the visual detailing reflected the filmmaker in him. “Having taught creative writing and film for quite a while, I decided it was time for me to finally practise what I had preached thus far,” he says.

Sequencing logic

According to him, with both film and books, the need for ‘a willing suspension of disbelief’ is paramount. “The grammar of film and books is very similar. You sequence shots, cut them and juxtapose them. Similarly, you also sequence words to make a paragraph, and so on.”

He prefers the Aristotelian principles of having a beginning, middle and end to construct a piece of fiction. “You need to build your story such that there is sufficient material for confrontation. A good book will always have moments of crisis, the resolution of which is where the artist’s touch comes in.”

Elaborating further on his experience with films, he says, “I don’t think the success of films ever depends upon the actors or item numbers. It is the screenplay that eventually wins the game. If the screenplay is good, the film is too.”

The reason why several films inspired by books do not do justice to the books is because of the multiple players involved, he says. “There are producers, directors, actors and a whole lot of other factors that determine how good the film will be. Usually, it is the lack of the single author stance that is responsible for the film not meeting expectations of the viewers.”

Harish is an alumnus of the National Film and Television School. He taught at Rewley House, Oxford University, before taking early retirement three years ago and deciding to return to India. “I don’t like big cities. I travelled to several places before settling for Bangalore. The weather and the traffic conditions here seemed to suit me best.”

He believes publishing in India has a brighter future than in the U.K. or the U.S. “I see more young people buying books here than in London.”

More to popular fiction

How does popular fiction today fare with several new writers emerging? For him, a balance between the commercial and the artistic element is the key to raising the bar of popular fiction.

“There is always a choice when you have the idea of creating a book. When you are taking the time to write something, why not add some layers to it? Writing should never be one dimensional. It should be entertaining enough to keep you hooked, at the same time make you think. Experiment with styles, use language differently, at the same time, keep the reader in mind,” he says.

Harish has also written several plays for BBC radio and made a few documentaries. His next shot would be at short films.

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