A good friend of mine recently got into film school. She sometimes consults me on her writing assignments and vet her scripts, which is a process I enjoy because I hardly do anything creative these days.
She told me to read a short story a few days ago, and I gave her my honest opinion about what I felt about a lot of things about her writings so far.
I've paraphrased some of what I told her. I thought it's good to share. Don't mind me. I'm not the most focus person when I talk. Feel free to disagree with me.
I don't like you peppering your language with so many cheem words. Okay, maybe that's just me, because I'm very impatient, don't like flowerly language, and I enjoy my airport novels. I took 1-2 minutes trying to understand this short paragraph you wrote... of this guy waking up and just walking to the door. It's a short story. You'll want to establish your characters quickly.
Write about something you know. You're Singaporean,you know. You're not a white guy, so why are you writing about a white guy living and working in London? You've never even been there! Perhaps you're basing his character on the books you've been reading. But have you done your research properly? Why is he on Facebook? Your character's a guy that works as a kitchen staff in a Indian Curry house... what if subscription for the Internet is actually very expensive in London? How could he have afforded that?
Write about something you know. People want to read about Singapore. Life in Singapore. Your life as a Singaporean girl. Even if it's the most mundane part about you taking the MRT or Bus to work. Don't be shy. Your writing always make me feel like you're afraid of expressing yourself. I bet you have some classmates trying too hard to impress as well, but never mind, it's a learning process.
Look at the writers we know. R.K. Narayan gave us a window to life in India. Kevin Smith was writing about his himself working as a convenience store clerk in Clerks. Alfian Sa'at wrote short stories of different people living in HDB in Corridors. Marian Keyes was working in London, that's why she was able to write about London, lah! See, the beatnik guy you like... that guy who wrote Post Office. He also wrote about himself, what!
...Marian Keyes is clinically depressed, and was an alcoholic. But you see that some of her characters are actually her.
When I wrote my script last time, I first started to write about a friend who worked in New York. I haven't even been to New York before! Then my friend Fadhil said that I should just write about something I know, so I scrapped my whole script. That's why my script was about something happening around me.
I don't know what inspired J.K. Rowling to write her Harry Potter series, but perhaps that's because I haven't read any of her works. But I'm sure she herself is somewhere there in her works.
You're not writing an autobiography lah, but if you do you got to do your research well. Look at that lady who wrote Rape of Nanking. She killed herself after awhile because she probably couldn't tahan after relating some other people's tragic stories on their behalf. Quite sad ah, the life of some writers. Her job literally killed her.
Don't be ashamed of who you are. Don't be afraid of revealing yourself in your works. Just. Let. Go.