Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oh Malaysia, I love you

That's why when I voted in my old school, Sri Aman, I went in with a vision of you in my mind. I went in visualising:

- a Malaysia where no corruption exists, where my hard-earned money going into considerable taxes would fuel a world where open tenders are declared, the best man gets the contract based on merit and funds are well spent on education, health and good transportation for the masses

- a Malaysia where there will be a minimum wage so that the hardcore poor will forever be eradicated

- a Malaysia where scholarships and promotions are awarded on how well you do, not who you know

- a Malaysia where the colour of your skin is no longer of consequence

- a Malaysia which can compete in the world economy, where investors are not given the runaround of endless red tape

- a Malaysia that is safe, where we can go about our business without physical threat to our safety, where the police exists to serve us, the people, and are given a minimum wage to exist so they will no longer feel the need to take bribes

- a Malaysia that is tolerant to newcomers from other Asian and African countries, who might one day be Malaysians too, where citizens do not feel the need to treat other people from less fortunate nations as though they are pariahs

Malaysia, I voted for you.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Misdirect

Ever read a story or watched a movie when the plot threw you a curveball suddenly that had you gasping, "Wow! I didn't see that coming!"? You are of course bowled over by the audaciousness of the writers: "Wow, how did he/she come up with something like that? I wish I can do it too."

Actually, you can.

The plots that twist and turn and throw you curveballs and hardballs and anything else that would have you grasping balls (pardon the language) have a common ploy -- the Misdirect. You've probably used it yourself, only you didn't realise it was called a Misdirect; the same way you wield the English language without realising you're using pronouns and verbs and adjectives, all in the same sentence. (The fact I'm perpetually using all these still continues to leave me speechless.)

A Misdirect can be summed up like this:
1. Come up with your plot twist/ending first.
2. Now lead your reader away from it by leading them down another direction, so when it hits them, they'll say, "Wow, I didn't see that coming!"

Even Booker Prize winners do it too, which is why Margaret Atwood's 'The Blind Assassin' is so satisfying. Basically, what she did was: (Warning, I'm going to spoil 'The Blind Assassin' here)

1. The big knockout twist at the end was that the 'I' character was the one who wrote the science-fiction stories and had the affair with her sister's lover

2. So Margaret starts out at the very beginning of the book, even before the first chapter, to lead the reader down the wrong path. The 'I' character is introduced receiving news of her sister's sudden death. She goes to retrieve her sister's artifacts, finding some old exercise books.

3. The very next chapter has some newspaper clippings on how her sister's posthumous science-fiction book is published, leading to worldwide fame and recognition. Therefore, the reader immediately 'assumes' that what the 'I' character found was her sister's manuscript in the old exercise books.

4. The rest of the story is about their lives, interspersed with excerpts from the science-fiction book, to help the reader understand why the 'I' character did what she did.

In short stories with a twist, 'Misdirect' is also a trick employed very often. I've been guilty of doing it myself over and over again before I even understood the term 'Misdirect'. But if you want to employ a Misdirect, you have to map out your plot point twist/ending first. How can you lead the reader down a wrong path if you yourself don't know which path you're heading, right?

Next: Doublespeak and Doublethink