A WRITER IN TRANSITION. BLOG # 5.

          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.

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A WRITER IN TRANSITION. BLOG #4.

                 THE MORAL AMBIGUITY.

           In my previous blog, I had discussed my attempts to find a theme for my next novel. Having decided to write a novel in the third person narrative, I had suggested that I would like a narrative where the protagonist would be driven by two strong emotions of guilt and sacrifice. The core of this novel would be that the protagonist would never realise that he is driven by these two emotions and still he would find his redemption. In this blog, I would discuss what happens to us when we are not aware of our own subconscious emotions and how this ignorance leads us to moral ambiguity.

           As we grow up, we realise that our notions of ‘good’ and ‘bad ‘ are not clear cut. We normally define these notions in the context of what we are required to do. In other words, there are no perfect definitions of good and bad. We decide what is good and what is bad depending on the circumstances that we face. Every time, when we face such a dilemma, we make a choice of what is good and what is bad depending on our own understanding of life. More often than not, we arrive at our choice based on what our intuition tells us about the choice. Of course, once we have made the decision, we always conjure up very good arguments to justify our choice. Rarely, if ever, we realise that our arguments in support of our choices are justifications of our choice and not the reasons for our choices.

            The trouble with growing up is that, as we grow older,  we become  more and more aware of this gap between the arguments as a justification and arguments as a reason behind our choices. As a child, each one of us lives in a blithe ignorance and believe that our desires are synonymous with what is good and therefore we pursue our desires and wishes with an endearing naivete. However, as we grow old, our moral sense tells us that life is not as simple as that. There is something more to life than the endless pursuit of wish fulfillment. The real problem with growing up is not that our moral sense tells us about what not to do, but rather that it doesn’t tell us what to do. Our sense of morality is, in some sense, negative. It reduces the number of choices that we can think of  what we ought to do. However, it never suggests any choices, on its own,  of what we ought to do. Therefore, sometimes we never know the morally correct choice until it is too late. This is the origin of our moral ambiguity. More importantly, it defines the human angst of modern times.

           I am tempted to believe that this story of individual development from naivete to ambiguity is also reflected in our collective history of our culture. In the ancient times, the societies  (and even religions) were founded on the simplistic notions of good and bad. With the passage of time, due to social and cultural evolution, we have evolved very intricate rules of justice and equity. However, somewhere deep within, we know that our laws also tell us what not to do and rarely tell us what to do.

            My focus however, is not really on this moral sense per se. My interest, as a novelist, is in the consequences of such a muted moral sense. If human beings are driven by their subconscious emotions  ( of which they are not aware of ) and if they are handicapped by this muted moral sense, every human being would be facing angst that arises from this moral ambiguity. Most of us have experienced situations wherein we know that what we want to do is not exactly right thing to do and still we want to do it because that gives us an emotional satisfaction. The tragedy of human life is that vague awareness of having transgressed and yet experiencing emotional deliverance. I think human being are not good or bad. They are good and bad at the same time.

            I think that Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has deliberately endowed us with this muted moral sense. Had she given us a complete morality, we , human beings, would be reduced to machines following Nature’s instructions. The value of human life lies in the fact that she/he has a freedom to pursue what she/he thinks is good and make mistakes. This freedom to commit mistakes also gives human beings a chance to redeem themselves. Our subconscious need to experience catharsis is actually a substitute for our destiny to experience our redemption. The true moral ambiguity lies in our need to experience this catharsis and redemption. I think there is no way to explain why we need to experience the subconscious emotional drives, the subsequent sense of transgression, it’s catharsis and finally a sense of redemption. I believe we don’t need to undergo these emotional cycles. We would be happy to be always correct and always satisfied. . However, I am convinced that in that case , we would not be human beings,  but some automatons. To quote a famous saying, to err is human. I am tempted to modify that saying and assert that to err is human destiny.

            I am planning to write my next novel where the protagonist is acutely conscious of his own moral ambiguity but he is driven by his subconscious mind to transgress. Of course, in the light of what I have written, the protagonist would have to find his own redemption.

           In my next blog, I would discuss what kind of protagonist I would want. This is because his profile would decide what  form of transgression the protagonist would be forced to commit by his own subconscious mind and how he would find his redemption.