• Wed
  • Aug 20, 2014
  • Updated: 2:13pm

The power of telling tales

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 August, 2010, 12:00am

A powerful scene from the winning story in this summer's Young Post Fiction Writing Competition reads: 'He knew he should hide, sprint down the fire escape and run home, but he didn't. The camera was welded to his fingers. Instead, he stood on the rooftop and filmed the people disappear from the park, filmed the spent bullets on the ground. Let the world see, Maung.'

Written by 15-year-old Liu Yi-ling from Chinese International School, The Footage of Yangon describes a day in the life of a young undercover reporter named Maung who is filming anti-government protests on the streets of Yangon, Myanmar.

'In an English class last year, we studied Burma [Myanmar] and its political situation. It interested me a lot because I'm keen to learn about human rights and their violations. I want to know what's going on in the world,' says Yi-ling.

She adds that one of her favourite books is The Things They Carried, a 1990 collection of stories by Tim O'Brien about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Yi-ling's parents came from the mainland and were educated in the United States. She and her older brother like to discuss world issues at home. 'My brother knows a lot about world events and we talk about them and sometimes argue,' she says.

She says she tries to teach her four-year-old sister about the world by simplifying complicated political stories about the former Soviet Union, for example.

Yi-ling thinks being socially aware is the least she can do to make a positive contribution to the world. And she sees writing as a tool to make people aware of what's going on.

'I think ignorance is the worst thing. I'm very privileged to ... have a happy life. Living in a bubble [could mean I] turn a blind eye to my environment, but if I do that, nothing will get changed,' she says.

Yi-ling has had a passion for writing for as long as she can remember. Her first story, written at age five, was about a giant monster who wanted to shrink himself.

'My mum typed out my story, with all the wrong spellings I'd made. She found the story cute and wanted to keep it,' she says.

Yi-ling reads a wide variety of fiction. She enjoys books by Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell - and even Stephenie Meyer.

'I love words and playing with them. I love to see how writers craft a perfect structure. It's like enjoying a piece of artwork with perfect strokes,' Yi-ling says.

'I think to be a good writer, you need to read and write. By reading, you shape the way you write, and you write to practise [your skills]. It's also important to have your own experiences, as it will give you the substance of a human story.'

Yi-ling says she wants to be a writer or a journalist, and plans to take English as her major at university along with political science and international relations.

Yi-ling believes writers can do many things. 'They can stir controversy, they can raise awareness, and they can bring hope,' she says.

That desire to bring hope is clear in her story about Maung.

'I believe that one day the ... people of Myanmar will be able to find their way [to democracy], even though it's going to be a very slow process.'

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