Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

A Story

Vijay Lakshmi Chauhan

It began as anything but a story. What shape my thoughts would take, I had no idea, not until they had run a marathon and had arrived at the finish. Then the landscape swung into view. I could see clusters of words and jumbles of images as an artist sees a knot of trees, a mass of rocks, a flock of birds, a patch of the sky. I could now arrange and rearrange till a pattern began to emerge. In the process of writing and rewriting, I discovered the form my narrative would take. Here was a story, a construct—compact yet expressive, flexible though taut. It encapsulated a myriad of emotions; in fact, a whole range of experiences—lived and imagined. No matter how it had begun—as a meditation, a confession, a monologue, a poem, or a play of the mind—it was now a shape, a form that stood as an intermediary between the self and the world that it contemplated.

Perhaps that is what all art does. It becomes a filter through which one begins to view the world. For no matter why we start painting or singing, sculpting or writing, eventually we come to confront bigger questions, the nagging questions that transform a purely subjective experience into a universal riddle, and the intensity of a throbbing moment into pulsations of boundless time.

After the initial attempt—and in the process of discovering new stories—I was to hear other voices, see other patterns besides my own. The ambience of the immediate experience and of the immediate self was to disappear into a larger vision of humanity. In writing stories about the immigrant experience, I heard echoes of the general human situation. I realized I was writing about not only my hopes or fears, not only about the dreams and nightmares of

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