IN SEARCH OF A PROTAGONIST.
In my previous blog, I had discussed the moral ambiguity and our vague awareness of that ambiguity. I had suggested that my next novel would deal with a protagonist who would transgress what he considers as a thin line between morality and immorality. His dilemma is that he is forced to cross that line even while knowing that he shouldn’t. The novel deals with how he copes with this dilemma and how he finds his deliverance.
In this blog, I would discuss my problems with selecting the protagonist. In my earlier two novels, I had used certain yardsticks in deciding who should the protagonist be. Let me begin with those yardsticks and tell you what these yardsticks indicate about my third novel. In my first novel, the protagonist, Manas Desai, was an entrepreneur. When I began writing that novel, I wanted to focus on how an idealism of a young man degenerates into amoral ego trip. Therefore, I wanted the protagonist to be emotionally naive. I wanted him to experience trauma and drift into business. Therefore, that character turned out to be an entrepreneur. His descent into an amoral existence could only be achieved if he were to be self employed. Had that protagonist been shown as a careerist , it would have been unconvincing to make him amoral egotist. Therefore, the character of Manas Desai was shaped by my need to transform naive idealism into amoral egoism.
In my second novel, the protagonist, Gautum Parikh, is a chartered accountant. Once again, it was my own compulsion that had shaped the profile of the protagonist. In my second novel, I was keen to demonstrate that even rational individuals end up in believing in irrational and blind beliefs. Therefore, I wanted the protagonist to be a professional. Of course, I could have made the protagonist either a lawyer or a doctor or even a technocrat. However, since the protagonist had to be old enough to experience the rebirth of his girlfriend, he had to be a man in his fifties. This eliminated the technocrat because the paradigm shift in technology is so dramatic that to create credible details of young and old protagonist would have been very difficult. Even the choice of medical profession for the protagonist was ruled out because it would require too much of a technical jargon. I want my protagonists to be easily identifiable by lay readers. Therefore, I had option of having a lawyer or a chartered accountant as my protagonist . I opted for a chartered accountant by default because there are several references to a court trial in the novel. Therefore, having a lawyer as a protagonist would have turned the narrative into a monochromatic narrative. In this novel, the protagonist being a chartered accountant helped me to balance the narrative with different background milieus of a chartered accountancy firm as well as a criminal trial. Once again, the profile of the protagonist was decided by the novel itself.
Now, let me turn to my next novel and tell you about the protagonist. As I have already mentioned, the protagonist experiences a sense of guilt of having transgressed his own sense of morality. Though, he knows that he had valid reasons for transgressing, he still blames himself. What he doesn’t know is that his own subconscious mind had a powerful reason to force him to commit something that he considered to be wrong. Therefore, my main concern is what kind of professional background the protagonist should have. That profession must put him in a situation where he is forced to do something that he considers to be wrong.
When I began this blog, I had thought of few options about his profession. I wanted the protagonist to be either a programmer or a college lecturer or even a government officer. Admittedly, these are rather non glamorous occupations. However, my choice is based on several reasons. I think that I am comfortable with the protagonist who belongs to middle class. Moreover, his sense of guilt and his eventual deliverance needs to be spread over ten to fifteen years. Therefore, the protagonist ought to be a middle class and a middle aged individual. Such an individual can’t have any fancy professional background.
At the same time, his sense of having transgressed his own sense of morality must arise from his act of sufficient magnitude and dramatic consequences, otherwise he would never have an opportunity to redeem himself. Therefore, I am going to make him a computer programmer of the seventies who becomes a software consultant in the present times. His personal growth would reflect the shift in information technology. However, I would not focus on the technology per se, but on the protagonist as an individual. This will minimise the risk of being too technical and help the readers to identify with the protagonist.
In my next blog , I would discuss my problems with evolution of the characters in the novel.