MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #26.

MODERNITY AND IDIOMATIC EXPRESSIONS.

        In my previous blog , I had discussed the the role of emotions in shaping our beliefs. I had focused on the situation wherein a novelist could have different set of beliefs than that of one of the characters of created by that novelist. In this blog , I would discuss another problem faced by novelists. It has something to do with the kind of language employed by characters having diverse background. This problem is particularly important in case where the linguistic backgrounds of a character and a novelist who created character are totally different.

            In my second novel , I found this difficulty when I wanted to create a comparatively younger character. In my case , the problem is further compounded by the fact that this younger character is suspected to be a reincarnation of a character who has been described in great details in the first half of the novel. Therefore , my problem is how to keep emotions unchanged during reincarnation while creating a distinctively different persona. My initial idea was to use different idiomatic English to highlight these different incarnations. That is when I realised how deeply our personae and our expressions are connected to one another. Therefore , in this blog , I would discuss the relationship between the language and characterization. The focus would be on the changing idiomatic expressions with increasing modernity.

         In my first novel , I was more concerned about the distortion that our emotions cause in our understanding of the reality. In my second novel , the focus is on the characters as personifications of complex emotions. Therefore , the details of the characters in my second novel assume more significance. For a novelist , the challenge lies in creating characters whose behaviours are reflection on the emotions embedded in them. In addition , each character would have an identifiable manner of expressions that would be in harmony with her/his emotions, social background and the time in which that character is supposed to have existed. In this case , I was trying to create a younger character with the behaviour patterns and the idiomatic language that reflected the generation which went to college in last fifteen years. I realised that my own background could hardly provide any help. I had to , therefore , fall back to my own interactions with younger individuals , both within the family and within my social circle.

         When I did that , I realized that I was using their facial expressions  , hand gestures to understand what these individuals meant. Moreover , there usage of English was markedly different than the one I am comfortable with. Of course , I don’t speak as formally as I write. Still , I tend to use language with high vocabulary. I also tend speak complete sentences. This is totally missing from the younger individuals with whom I normally interact. These individuals use half sentences, phrases and very often , monosyllabic grunts to convey their views. I am not trying to look down upon their linguistic skills. On the contrary , they are very effective in communicating what they wish to. My problem , as a novelist  , is how does one portray such communication skills in the novel.

       My next strategy was to pick up idioms so popular with the youngsters and see whether that would help me to create a convincing characterization. While creating the earlier avatar of the character suspected to have been reborn , I had used one such idiom ‘ spot on ‘. It was used to imply that that person was absolutely right. I believe nobody uses that idiom anymore. In fact , there are large number of idioms and phrases which were in vogue  earlier and we don’t hear them these days. This is , in some sense , inevitable and even desirable. Our languages have resilience and flexibility to transform with changing times. However , a novelist is required to capture these nuances as she /he is duty bound to capture the social context in which the characters of her /his novel.

           Returning to my second novel , I have tried to use the idiomatic expressions of a girl who had graduated in the times of Internet. I have sought to employ different colloquial language for this girl. For instance  , that character , in her earlier avatar , would speak rather bookish English. This is because she was studied in a vernacular medium school. The same character , in her later avatar , is shown to be a convent educated. Therefore , her expressions are essentially half completed sentences or phrases and even monosyllabic expressions. Surprisingly , the situation is reversed when it comes to written English.That girl , in her earlier avatar  , would end up writing improper syntax. The same character , in her later avatar , would write flawless text. This is because the students from the vernacular medium pick up spoken language but rarely write the same. Therefore their spoken language is as formal as  spoken by their parents who have studied Victorian English taught a generation earlier. The character , her later avatar, has studied in a convent school . Therefore , she writes proper text , but speaks contemporary college lingo.

     I found it challenging to use two idioms while expressing same emotions. The readers , hopefully , would notice it. In my next blog , I would discuss how the pace of life has changed during a single  generation. The protagonist describes his past in slow paced narrative. However , the pace of narration picks up after the character supposed to have been reborn enters his life. I would describe how the narrative changes from one generation to the next. 

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MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #25.

THE ROLE OF BELIEF IN WRITING FICTION.

      In my previous blog , I had discussed the difficulty in creating two different avatars of a character being reborn. I had suggested that changes in the society in the interim would shape these different avatars differently. While some of the emotions would remain unchanged , some emotions , or at least their expressions , would change with the passage of time. The most visible source of these changes would be the technological advances. I had described in my previous blog how the current incarnation would have a different way of expressing her emotions. In this blog , I would focus on different aspects of emotions. Our emotional universe  defines the kind of beliefs that we have. This is the basic premise of characterization in fiction writing. However , in this blog , I would invert this paradigm and look at the role of a novelist’s own  beliefs in creating characters. If it is true that our emotions decide and define the kind of beliefs we have , then it must be true in case of a novelist also. The problem with this reasoning is that if the characters created by a novelist were to have different kinds of beliefs , then the novelist can not herself /himself have mutually contradictory beliefs of these characters. More importantly, what if the novelist’s own beliefs were to be contradictory to the beliefs of one of the characters present in the novel. This is the  point that I want to delve on in this blog. The question  is whether a novelist ought to share same set of beliefs that the characters in her/his novel have ?

     Let me begin with my own experience while writing my second novel. I am basically a rationalist leaning towards agnosticism. For instance , I don’t insist that science and logic can explain everything in this world. At the same time , I do not believe that the things that logic can’t explain are proof of divinity. I think that we , collectively as a species ,  are still learning about what the universe is really like. Therefore , when I decided to write a novel based on the theme of reincarnation , I was doubtful whether I would be able to do justice to the idea of reincarnation. I was afraid that my own rationalist upbringing would not allow me to appreciate the reasons why we believe in the idea of reincarnation. I was afraid that the intellectual arrogance that comes so easily to us , the educated Indians , would make me dismissive of this idea. I was torn between my own rationality and my respect for the collective wisdom of our culture. However , I knew in my heart that the correct approach is to use fiction as a way deconstructing not only our cultural ethos , but also my own internal contradictions. That is why I created a protagonist who at some level believes in the idea of reincarnation and yet , somewhere deep within himself , doubts this idea of reincarnation.

       Actually , I thought that this was very clever strategy. However, as the novel progressed , I realized the reason why everyone believes in reincarnation is not based on logic but on their emotions. The belief in the idea of reincarnation arises because our emotions dictate that we do. At the same time , I realized that just because we believe in the idea of reincarnation due to our emotional compulsions, does not imply that the idea of reincarnation is wrong. At that point , I rediscovered the fundamental nature of ourselves that has been known to some of our greatest novelists. It is fundamentally true that we , human beings , live our lives in trying to make sense of our own emotions. We don’t live for or live by reason. We live for and live by our emotions. Just because our emotions influence our reasoning and just because our emotions are hidden from our conscious self  that we make a mistake of looking for reasons of our beliefs rather than understanding the emotions that give rise to our beliefs.

       Therefore , a novelist’s job is not to justify beliefs, either her/his own or those of the characters in the novel. A novelist’s primary role is to describe the journey of the characters present in her/his novel from the emotional turmoil to the emotional resolution. It is possible that the characters in some cases would reach wrong conclusions in their lives and that too by a wrong reasoning. A novelist is not required to justify her/his  characters. A novelist is responsible for portraying the emotional journey of the characters as faithfully as possible. If , in the process , the contradictions were to surface in these characters , then it is inherently tragic. But then again, the life is tragic whether we like it or not. The tragedy of life is not because we eventually realize our own emotional contradictions , but it is tragic because we conjure up some convenient explanations for these contradictions

    The question that I have not resolved , so far in my novel , is how would the protagonist eventually reconcile his own belief and disbelief in the possibility that his girlfriend has come back to him in her next incarnation. Of course , I would write about it, when I finish my novel.

         In my next blog , I would discuss another aspect of my second novel. I would describe my own difficulties in trying to understand and give expressions to the mentality of younger generation. I have mentioned earlier that the protagonist suspects that his dead girl friend has come back in his life in her next birth. As a novelist, my main concern was how to create contemporary expressions for that character. In my next blog , I would describe my problems with idiomatic expressions of modern life.