HOW TO SELECT THE THEME.
One of the most difficult part of writing a novel is how does one select a theme. Our conventional wisdom , which is based loosely on Freudian concepts , suggests that the the plot , the theme and the sensibility are not chosen consciously. It is the writer’s subconscious mind that selects and shapes these aspects of novel. Therefore , sometimes it is possible to analyze writer’s creativity by deconstructing her/ his novel. To the extent a writer is a product of the society and its culture , it is also possible to understand the society’s collective psyche by interpreting the social context of novels written during that period.
However , these considerations are irrelevant as far as an individual writer is concerned. A writer is more concerned with her/ his aesthetics and sensibility. The creative processes which help an author in writing are anyway beyond her/ his control. Therefore , for a writer , what is critical is not the creative processes ( over which she/ he has no control ) but the aesthetics and sensibility of the final product ( over which she/ he has some control). In that sense , the notion of authorship is rather a nebulous concept because major part of writer’s output is not in her/ his control.A writer has only an ability to refine the creative output , but not an ability to alter the creative processes. Therefore any claim of being an author is only a nominal claim.
These thoughts were predominant in my mind when I made a conscious choice of writing my second novel. Ironically enough, while content of a novel is not a matter of conscious choice for an author , whether to write a novel is partly a conscious choice. Of course , I have mentioned in my earlier blog about compulsive nature of creative writing, but I have realized that I am not a compulsive writer. I am a writer by choice. I think of writing as an act of self enlightenment. While writing my first novel , I have discovered several insights into my own life and by extrapolation into human existence. For me , therefore , writing a second novel was an act of further exploration.
The key aspect of selecting a theme of novel is the tussle between the creative process on one side and a writer’s critical thinking on the other side. I too experienced the same. There were quite a few themes that my subconscious mind kept on throwing up. My critical thinking kept on rejecting them. After several weeks of publication of my first novel , I decided to write a novel about the theme of reincarnation. There are several reasons for this choice and I would elaborate on them in this and following blogs.
In this blog , I would restrict myself to the reasons why my creative abilities and my critical thinking may have converged on this theme of reincarnation. I am saying ‘may have ‘ because I don’t think I can assert something about my creative abilities with any certainty. However , to the extent I can analyze , the following reasons seem possible. My creative instinct was attracted to this theme because of its metaphoric potential. Though being a scientist , my critical thinking was little skeptical about the validity of notion of reincarnation. Eventually , my creative instinct won and my critical thinking justified the choice by consoling itself , that may be this exercise of writing a novel on such a theme , would enable a scientist within me to debunk the very concept. Alternatively , I would get an opportunity to reflect on the logical consequences of such a possibility. I reminded myself that a true characteristic of an educated mind is its ability to examine a postulate without believing it. I thought to myself that this could be an opportunity to understand the popularity of this theme in spite of lack of any evidence. There must be some reason why this theme is so popular. I was hoping to deconstruct this irrational belief and it’s hold on our collective imagination.
However , after writing the first chapter , I realized that things are more complicated than what I had thought earlier. It is not a simple case of an objective mind dispassionately dissecting a web of irrational beliefs. To my surprise , a part of myself wants to believe in this notion of reincarnation. I wish to understand why a scientist ought to be riddled with such an ambivalent attitude. To that extent , this novel would be about self exploration. Why should I , with my scientific training , be ambivalent about this irrational belief ? Is there really something beyond science ? I am planning to explore those options in my novel.
There are several aspects to writing such a novel. I can mention some of them upfront. Apart from its metaphoric potential , I think the novel can offer a rich diversity of characters , their social backgrounds and their personalities. As a writer this is a rewarding experience. The novel on reincarnation offers kaleidoscopic collage for a writer to accommodate diverse personalities , diverse attitudes and diverse values into a single narrative. I am looking forward to writing this novel.
In the following blogs I would select some of these aspects and elaborate on them and try to describe my own experience in handling them.