MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #19.

CAN MALE WRITERS CREATE AUTHENTIC  FEMALE CHARACTERS IN FICTION  ?

              In all my previous blogs ,  I have tried to discuss the details of creative processes that are responsible for producing a work of fiction. I have tried to analyze subconscious compulsions that drive a novelist in chiselling out a final version of a novel. I have also discussed how these subconscious compulsions of a novelist are the products of the society that a novelist lives in. Thus , any novel provides a window to understand what is happening inside the mind of a novelist and therefore inside the collective psyche of the society to which that novelist belongs. However , in all these previous blogs there was an impersonal frame of reference.  It is true that , in all these blogs , I did refer to my own creative compulsions and the ethos of the society that I am living in.  However, in all these blogs , Vaachakmitra as a writer was being analysed. Today  , I am going to discuss a topic wherein I would try to analyze Vaachakmitra as an individual. In that sense  , this blog is more personal than all my previous blogs. However , I would like to keep the tone of the discussion at the academic level.  Of course , I would discuss this aspect of my personal side in the context of my forthcoming novel.

            Today , I would discuss a gender aspect of creative writing. Admittedly  , the gender issue is a very sensitive issue. I would try to keep in mind the strong emotions that this issue normally evokes.  Therefore , I would try to be transparent without being offensive. The topic of this blog is ‘ Can male novelists create authentic  female characters ? ‘  Of course  , it is possible to invert the framework and ask ‘ Can a female novelist create authentic  male characters ? ‘ However , I doubt whether I am qualified to answer this inverse question.  Therefore , I would restrict myself to the original question about men’s ability to understand and depict women in fiction.

        I would begin by analyzing my own creative processes. When I wrote my first novel , I was not very self observant. I was more focused on articulating my innermost feelings. Therefore , I could not analyze myself while writing that novel. However , when I had to read that novel again while editing , I realized that the women in that novel were created to fulfill emotional requirements of the protagonist. Therefore , I started wondering whether this was necessary  ? Of course  , as I have discussed in some of my previous blogs , every character  ( whether male or female ) can be understood as a personification of one or more emotions of novelist’s subconscious mind.  However  , the question is whether the gender of a novelist would obscure such a personification ? Admittedly , it is possible to argue that all such personifications are subject to personal bias of the novelist, so why single out female characters created by male novelists. However , I believe that this singling out is necessary because it reflects on far more fundamental aspect of psychology and therefore that of psychoanalytical fiction.

           Before I express my views on that topic  , I would like to discuss how writing of my second novel has helped me to arrive at my present view.  As mentioned above , when I realised that I was not self observant enough during the writing of my first novel , I made a conscious choice of being self observant while writing my second novel. I realized , while writing my second novel , that it is not easy to think like a woman.  For a man , it is far easier to create a fancy dressed as woman than create a real woman in his fancy. In the novel that I am writing , the central character is a woman. However, the protagonist of the novel is a man. Therefore , the novel is a narrative of reminiscences of the  protagonist in which the central character of a woman predominates. Since the novel about the reminiscences of the protagonist  , it was always tempting to describe that woman as part fantasy and part reality.  However , I felt that that would be unfair to the central character of a woman. So , I have tried to create a literary device wherein she describes herself. This was the point of narration where I realized the importance of gender. Of course , the readers would have to decide whether I have been successful in depicting a female character without gender bias.

          I will now answer the question I have posed in the title of this blog. I am going to answer this question from the scientific and literary perspectives because I happen to be both , a scientist and a novelist. Genetics tells us that men and women share the same genes except for those present on X and Y  chromosomes. Since we do not exactly know how each chromosome contributes in creating our mind , it would be difficult decide whether men can think like women or women can think like men. However, it is most likely that our ability to think is decided by all our chromosomes.  It is only to the extent  where genes present on either X or Y chromosome influences creating our mind , that men and women would differ in their thinking. Therefore  , to that extent , it would indeed be difficult  for men to think like women and vice versa. However , as a novelist ,  I have a slightly different view. Men may not be able to think like women , but men can always understand the way women think and vice versa.  This is because  we understand things by not just by thinking but by empathising. Empathising is a process wherein we put ourselves in other person’s shoes and then try to perceive reality from that person’s perspective.  This ability to empathise elevates us to our humanity. Therefore , to answer the question , I can say that no , male novelists can not think from women’s perspective  but  , yes,  they can create a genuine female characters by empathy.

           It must be kept in mind that , in a broader sense , every character , whether male or female ,  created by novelist , whether male or female , is created by similar processes of empathising and internalisation. Therefore , the conception of fictional character , irrespective of its gender , is always through internalisation which is subjective anyway. Therefore every fictional character is blend of the subjective sensibility of novelist and the objective reality of our society. The process of personification extracts parts of reality and blends them with the novelist’s sensibility. Therefore fiction has a luxury of being inventive which is not available to sociology.

          In my next blog , I would discuss one more aspect of gender difference.  I would discuss whether the kind of emotions that we experience are derived from our gender. In other words , do men and women have different types of emotions ?

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MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #18

THE TWISTED LOGIC OF OUR EMOTIONS.

          In my previous blog , I had discussed the  psychology of wishful thinking and the role of wish fulfillment in shaping our behavior. It was suggested that we are sometimes not aware of our own emotions because they remain embedded in our subconscious mind.  However, these emotions surface as wishful thinking in our conscious mind . Therefore , when we try to fulfill our wishes , we are actually trying to accommodate our subconscious emotions. Since this transformation of our subconscious emotions into our conscious wishes is not simple and  straightforward , we never realise what our actual emotions are. We simply indulge in wish fulfillment without knowing how our wishes are formed. However , it is possible to understand our own selves by analyzing this transformation but that would be possible only with the help of psychologists. Alternatively , we can understand human mind by reading some of the great novels. I had suggested that the novelist can explain human nature by personifying the emotions and building a novel out of it.

          In this blog , I would like to discuss how our emotions twist our ability to think to make us believe in things that we would not have believed otherwise. While the psychologists are familiar with this emotional distortion of logic , as a novelist , I am interested in the unfolding of tragedy because of this distortion. Psychologists study this subject of cognitive dissonance purely from the clinical perspective. However , I am not interested in clinical aspects of this emotional distortion. I am interested in the tragedy resulting from such emotional distortion. The academic scholarship has the luxury of being impersonal. A novelist does not have such a luxury.  A novelist is driven by empathy. This empathy arises from the fact that the characters of that novelist’s novel are personifications of human emotions and some of these emotions are the novelist’s own. Therefore a novelist has an insider’s perspective of this emotional distortion , whereas a psychologist has  an outsider’s perspective.

          I would like to clarify that I have referred to tragedy of human lives that arise from the emotional distortion in this blog so far. This is not to be confused with the melodrama that one witnesses in popular fiction and cinema. Sometimes  the human tragedy occurs even when the  individuals involved are not even aware of it. Strangely , this is one of the defining features of human tragedy wrecked by emotional distortion. The person concerned would defy the logic which shows that there is something tragic in that individual’s life. However , the emotional distortion would compel that individual to deny the tragedy. It is this persistent denial by that individual that is the real tragedy and not the misfortune that befalls on that individual. The misfortunes happen to all of us. However , our consistent denial would simply perpetuate the emotional distortion. This persistent denial postpones the acceptance of reality  , subsequent emotional closure and healing. Therefore the real tragedy of human beings is that our own , very natural , response to emotional trauma that misfortunes inflict on our mind , itself  closes our paths to recovery.  Our tragedy is not that misfortunes happen in our lives, but that we refuse to heal ourselves because our thinking is distorted by the strong emotions that these misfortunes generate in our mind.

            In some sense , this is like a Greek tragedy because we are born with the mind that is distorted by our emotions.  However , in some sense  , this is like a Shakespearian tragedy because we deny ourselves a chance to heal by perpetuating the emotional distortion of our thinking.  One final observation on this emotional distortion is that the resulting tragedy may sometimes appear in the form of delusional happiness. This is perhaps the most subtle form of tragedy.

          In the remaining part of this blog , I would describe how I came across this aspect of tragedy while writing my second novel. I have already mentioned that my second novel deals with the theme of reincarnation. I have also mentioned that the novel centres around a chartered accountant who finds that his girlfriend apparently experiences memories of her past births. As the novel  progresses , the protagonist changes his own opinion about the idea of reincarnation as his own emotional attachments to his girlfriend grows. I did not intend to write a tragic novel , at least not when I began this novel. However , I realized that it would end up as a tragic story whether I want it or not. When I thought about the reasons for this , I found the explanation that I have outlined above. Of course , given my sensibility, it would not be a melodrama.

         Since I did not want to write a tragic novel , I started introducing some  positive elements into the story.  I thought that I should dwell on the romantic undertones of the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend.  While making that choice , I was consciously  trying to eliminate one of the shortcomings of my first novel. In that novel , the women appear only in the context of the  protagonist’s emotional needs.  This , I thought , was definitely a shortcoming . A novelist , who wants to unravel the subconscious mind of a contemporary man , can not escape the romance and implicit sexuality from the narrative. However, in the surreal treatment of modern man, I could not have introduced that facet of the protagonist without compromising the thematic integrity. So , when I began my second novel , I was keen to explore that area of our subconscious mind. So, I made a conscious choice of enlivening the plot of my second novel and the relationship between the protagonist and his girlfriend was the most natural choice.

      However, even while doing this ,  I was clear that the romantic and sexual aspect of the  protagonist’s evolution should not end up being descriptive. Instead , I wanted it to emerge from the subconscious drive of the protagonist. In addition , I also wanted to explore the the possibility of these aspects of the protagonist spanning across the reincarnation. So  , I wanted the protagonist to get hint of his love being eternal to come from the the memories of his girlfriend about her past births. When I reached that point in the plot when the girlfriend recollects her past memories with the protagonist , I realized that there tragic fate of their romance was already scripted into those memories. In other words  , even the lighter and enlivening elements of the plot would reinforce the tragic undercurrents of man’s subconscious mind.

     Having failed to avoid the tragedy in my second novel , I thought of introducing some  some nobility of the soul in the protagonist’s mental make up.  I thought that this would enable me to imbue some positivity into the novel.  That is where I found the delusional aspect of man’s tragedy.  My protagonist tries to be noble in face of the adversities in life. However , at some point he realises that his own sense perceived nobility is nothing but the delusion created by his mind to compensate for the trauma that he had experienced in love. This is where my novel is at present.  I hope to depict his redemption once he realises that his delusion of nobility is far deeper tragedy than his unrequited love is.

        I  would describe in my next blog how difficult it is for male novelists to unravel a woman’s subconscious mind.