A WRITER IN TRANSITION BLOG #9.

                  DO GOOD NOVELS SELL  ?

          In my previous blog, I had suggested that I would discuss non literary aspects of writing a novel. In that blog, I had discussed a novelist’s problem of finding an audience for her /his novels. I had suggested that the task of marketing a novel is not necessarily to commercialize a novel, but to locate a right audience. Of course, once such an audience is found, selling that novel leads to financial gains. In this blog, I would discuss the popular belief that commercial bestselling novels are not really literary masterpieces.

        The most common misconception about good fiction is that it is appreciated by only the select few. Therefore, any bestselling novel is, by default, considered to be inferior by literary standards. It is rare that any novel would be a good literature and a bestselling one too. This belief that good literature and commercial success are mutually exclusive is so deep rooted that it is held not only by lay readers, but also by literary fraternity as well. The classic illustration of this misconception lies in the fact that Somerset Maugham was never awarded a Nobel prize for literature. There was never a doubt about his literary genius, but the fact that he was popular and a bestselling author seemed to have influenced the jury. Graham Greene is another instance of this misconception, though he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature belatedly.

        To be honest, this distinction between the literary merits and the commercial viability of a novel is highly simplistic. It has its roots in our popular cultural stereotyping. One always imagines a novelist  (or any artist, for that matter ) to be an eccentric, impoverished and an ignored  individual. The publishers, by contrast, are perceived to be money minded, greedy and inconsiderate entities. This kind of unjust typecasting is reinforced by several instances wherein what turned out to be masterpieces have had to wait for long periods of time to find a publisher.

      The reality is somewhat different. Earlier, the publishing was dominated by a few organizations. Moreover, since publishing was a capital intensive and uncertain enterprise, it remained captive of few big corporations. In fact, even today, there are only a handful of big corporations who monopolise the publishing industry. In addition to this publishing  oligarchy,  the problem of fiction lies in the fact that there are no set parameters of deciding a good literature. Literary standards are vague and even subjective. Therefore, it devolved upon the acquisition editors to decide what to publish. As a result, there was an implicit bias that was built into the publishing of fiction. It is this combination of anxiety to recover the high cost of publishing and the subjective selection process that has reinforced our above mentioned stereotyping of literature. It must be admitted that there are some good and enlightened editors and even ethical organisations who have worked against all odds to give us good fiction.

         However, the advent of online publishing has changed the paradigm of publishing fiction. It has democratised the whole process. By reducing the cost of publishing, it has enabled a few enlightened individuals to create a platform for publishing novels which would have had to otherwise  wait for long periods to see the light of the day. Since the cost of publishing has considerably reduced, one doesn’t need big corporations. A new set of entrepreneurs have emerged which would eventually replace the existing oligarchy. The sheer number of these entrepreneurs would ensure that there are no monopolistic or restrictive forces to prevent novelists from publishing their works.

      While this is certainly a desirable situation, the original question whether a good novel sells remains to be answered. The answer is strangely enough , both, yes and no. The process of democratisation of publishing industry would allow a larger talent pool of potential novelists to get their novels published. Moreover, with a good marketing strategy which focuses on finding the right audience would increase the commercial viability for the publishers and the novelists. Since the whole process is broad-based and unbiased, there is a level playing field. In that sense, a good novel has a better chance of selling itself.

     However, this process, by itself, does not define what is a good novel. Therefore, it depends on the collective perception of the readers of what is a good novel. In that sense, the answer to the question is the title of this blog is no. However, the definition of a good novel can not be decided by the size of its readership. I admit that sounds snobbish, but the fact is that a popularity  of a novel, by itself, can not determine its literary merits. There must be something definitive in defining a good novel. It is generally conceded that  there are two aspects of a novel that could help one to distinguish between a good novel and a bad novel. These are the content and form of a novel. The literary criticism is a highly evolved discipline with diverse views on both these aspects of fiction. However, there is no unanimity about how to evaluate these two aspects of any given novel. Therefore, one is forced to fall back on individual opinions of the experts to decide whether a given novel is good or not

      In my next blog, I would discuss an aspect of novel that decides the form of a novel. This is the role of editing in shaping a novel. 

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A WRITER IN TRANSITION BLOG #8.

         A WRITER IN SEARCH OF AN AUDIENCE.

           In the previous blog, I had discussed the structure of a plot of a novel and what factors decide it. In all my previous blogs in this series, I have discussed several literary aspects of writing a novel. In the next few blogs, I would discuss the problems of a novelist that are not exactly literary but they are important nevertheless. These are the problems of finishing the novel as a product and delivering it to readers. In this blog , I would discuss the problem of finding an audience.

          For a first time novelist, this problem is nonexistent or to put it differently, a first time novelist is oblivious to this problem. To that novelist, novel writing is an abstract exercise to be carried out in the privacy of her /his mind. I am using the word ‘abstract‘ because no part of this activity is grounded in the reality, except perhaps the pen and paper  ( or a computer these days ). Everything else about that yet to be written novel is ethereal. The would be novelist is not even aware of whether and by whom that novel would be published. To her/him, the novel is like a newborn baby who needs round the clock mollycoddling. A novelist is on an emotional high during this phase. No mundane details are of any importance to the first time novelist.

      When I recollect my life when I was writing my first novel, I now realise how naive I must have been. This dream like reverie exists because the novelist is , in reality , writing for herself /himself. The novelist is a writer and a reader at the same time. Therefore, there is no need for anyone else. However, things change after the novelist finishes writing that novel. The novelists, as a species, live a paradoxical life. On one hand, they are intensely private individuals, but on the other hand, they seek external approval for their outputs. Therefore, once a novel is finished, the second persona of novelists takes over. The first time novelists have all the more need to secure approval  (and even praise ) from people around them.

      That is when the reality sinks in. A first time novelist realises that there are real life problems in making people read that novel. Reaching out to readers requires an effort. Finding out the potential readers requires a skill, a strategy and resources which the would be novelist may or may not have. In earlier times, one needed to have literary agents who would try to sell the manuscript to big publishing houses. Thus, a novelist would have to wait for long periods before a publisher would agree to publish a novel by a new author. There have been several instances where the novelists who subsequently became best-selling authors, had to wait for long periods to get their first novels published. In the present times , with the spread of Internet and online publishing, the things have changed. It takes much shorter time to publish novels.

       However, finding the right audience is still a problem. The real problem is not that it requires lot of marketing to sell a novel, but rather that a novelist does not realise that without marketing no novel would find its audience. In addition, as mentioned above, a novelist has no such skills. It is sometimes tempting for a novelist  ( or for that matter for all creative persons ) to look down upon such marketing strategies. It is natural for a novelist to put the creative process on a pedestal and neglect everything else. In fact, it is this ideal of artistic purity that misleads an artist to relegate the importance of reaching out to an audience.

        It is a common mistake to think that this emphasis on marketing is of recent origins. It is tempting to think that this undue emphasis is a consequence of increasing commercialisation of every sphere of human activities. While it is true that, with the passage of time, things are increasingly valued at their monetary worth,  the real need for marketing is  for targeting the potential audience and not necessarily for monetizing a novel. It is not just  money but every resources are in limited supply. Therefore, what marketing does is to chalk out a strategy to put that novel within the reach of such resources. It creates a channel which makes a novel to connect with a reader who has either an inclination, a spare time or spare budget.

        I would like to admit that when I began my first novel, I was blissfully unaware of this wisdom. It was only after publishing the novel, that I found this out. A  large share of the credit of enlightening me goes to my publishers Cinnamon Teal publishing.

     In my next blog, I would discuss whether the artistic purity is really in conflict with the marketing strategies or not ? 

A WRITER IN TRANSITION BLOG #7.

            THE STRUCTURE OF A NARRATIVE.

       In the previous blog, I had discussed my experience in developing characters during the unfolding of the novel. A novelist is required to provide direct and indirect clues which would give the impression of a  character’s growth as the plot of a novel unfolds. In this blog, I would discuss the problem that a novelist faces while creating a plot.

       Normally, a reader would prefer to read a novel which is told in a linear style. In other words, a novel must have a beginning , an end and the narration of what happened between the beginning and the end in the same sequence as it must have happened. However, very often, a novelist would prefer to begin a novel somewhere from the middle of the plot and keep going back and forth in the plot. The technique of flashback is sometimes necessary because it helps a novelist to begin the novel at a point with which the readers can identify themselves. Therefore, flashback, in such a scenario, enables a novelist to develop a context why the readers could identify themselves with the protagonist. Once the context of this identification is established, it becomes easier for a novelist to move the plot in the forward direction. Thus, the technique of flashback helps a novelist to begin the narrative from the middle of the plot which is contemporary and easily identifiable by lay readers. The flashback then provides a novelist with a tool to depict the past of the protagonist. Since the readers have already identified themselves with the protagonist by then, the revealing of the past takes readers to their own past, thereby providing an opportunity for catharsis.

        In my both novels, I have used this technique. In my first novel, THE MULTITUDES OF RIPPLES the novel begins when the protagonist, Manas Desai, is hospitalized after his nervous breakdown. I thought, at that time, that this is a good starting point because Manas Desai was in a most vulnerable state and therefore he was easy to be identified with. Secondly, since he was trying to recollect his own past, the very process of recollection could become the narrative. Of course, due to his nervous breakdown, Manas’s recollection was fractured and that created a surreal narrative.

      In my second novel THE HUMAN PILGRIMAGE, the protagonist Gautum Parikh, begins writing his own life story when he finds himself overwhelmed by the irrational things happening in his life. I felt that this situation, wherein we find ourselves unable to cope with circumstances of our lives, is a universal situation. Almost all of us have felt that way, sometime or the other, in our lives. This vulnerability, I thought at that time, to be a good starting point because the readers would find it easier to identify with such a vulnerable protagonist. The unfolding of the protagonist’s past, in this novel, provides the context in which readers would find out why  their own  identification with the protagonist was justified. Of course, in this novel, things happen even while Gautum Parikh is writing about his life and these events provide a meaning to him about what life is.

      In my first novel, the plot was unfolded twenty years after it happened. In my second novel, the story begins and ends in the present times. It begins and ends in the year 2016. Therefore, I am wondering how to structure the plot of my third novel.

          I have decided that in this novel, I would not use flashback to take readers to the past. Instead, I would keep the plot restricted to a small period of time. I am planning to tell the readers about what happened to the protagonist, a software consultant in the last  three years.  His past would be narrated only through the references and allusions. Since this novel is a third person narrative, the protagonist would not be able to narrate his past. Therefore, he would recollect his past in the context of things happening to him in these three years. Therefore, the novel would begin in the year 2014 and end in the year 2017. The protagonist’s past would be revealed to the readers only through the reminiscences of the protagonist in the context of what is happening to him.

        This arrangement creates a rather complex narrative, and I am looking forward to it as a challenge. The reason why I have chosen this style of narrative is that it is my belief that, in real life, we don’t recollect our own pasts in a linear fashion. What actually happens is that every new event in our lives connects us to some incidents that we had experienced in the past. Thus, we live a complex life in which our past surfaces in our minds at every instance of our present moments. Moreover, since every moment of our lives triggers different and sometimes unrelated memories of our past, we spend lot of energy in making sense out of this haphazard experiences of living moment by moment and trying to cope with random memories that these moments trigger.

        This is where the significance of fiction lies. It helps us to learn how to create a simple narrative from our haphazard lives and make sense out of it. Therefore, writing and reading fiction is a therapeutic. It helps us to understand what life is.

        Having tried magical realism in past two novels, I am planning to write my next novel using realism. I am convinced that realism is as magical, if not more magical than the fantasy. I am also convinced that it doesn’t matter what the life really is. What matters to me, and it is a matter of faith for me, is that a human mind is capable of infusing meaning into the life. The life may be haphazard or absurd and the meaning that we infuse into such a life may be subjective, but it doesn’t matter. This is because this  subjective meaning of otherwise absurd life is what keeps us alive. Without it, we would not be able to live.

         In my next blog , I would discuss more practical aspects of being a novelist. I would discuss my problems with finding a right audience of a novel. 

A WRITER IN TRANSITION BLOG # 6.

THE EVOLUTION OF CHARACTERS IN A NOVEL.

        In my previous blog, I had discussed my problems with selecting a protagonist for my next novel. In this blog, I would discuss my problems with depicting the growth of characters in a novel with the passage of time. Normally, a novelist employs two methods . A novelist either can use some external markers like changes in the surroundings of the characters or can use some internal markers like thoughts of the characters to denote the passage of time. These, in conjunction with the emotional changes in the characters, can give a perception that these characters has evolved during the unfolding of the novel. Therefore, it is always a challenge for a novelist to bring out this perception indirectly through the creation of  details of  a novel as it unfolds.

        While writing my first novel, I realized that, both these techniques require different skills. While using external markers to depict the changes in the characters, I had to depend on my memory of the city of Mumbai  to differentiate between the old and new surroundings. The depiction of changed internal markers, on the other hand, required me to think and feel like the characters of that novel. Therefore, I  chose in my first  novel to restrict the geography of the plot to the one I am familiar with. Similarly, I  tried to flesh out characters with the emotions and thinking of the individuals of whom I had read about or whom I had met.

        However, in my second novel which would be published shortly, I have tried to be more adventurous. I chose to write about places I was not familiar with. Similarly, I have tried to flesh out characters  whom I have never met. This turned out to be a creative challenge because I had to rely on my imagination to create details of these entities. Of course, in the days of Google search, it is easy to find details of the places one has never visited. However, one needs to recreate the ambience of these places. I hope I have done it well. Similarly, if one were to create a character whom one has never met, one runs a risk of falling back to stereotypes. I have tried to invest new behavioural details in such characters to make them authentic. I hope that this detailing makes these characters believable.

     These might appear to be restrictive techniques. However, the key insight that I have gained is that beneath these limitations, there is something more fundamental and universal about the  human existence that would come through in spite of a novelist’s limited repertoire of locales and characters. There is something in each one of us that transcends these mundane details. It is novelist’s prime objective and in fact, a moral obligation, to tease out this transcendental aspect of otherwise ordinary characters. Fortunately, I could do it reasonably well in both these novels. Of course, the readers are the final arbiters of whether I have managed to do it or not. However, I personally think that I have done a decent job of extracting   the human angst from the lives of  otherwise nondescript characters.

       Let me now tell you how I am going to depict the  evolution of  characters in my third novel. As I have mentioned earlier, this novel is going to be a third person narrative. Therefore, there is no narrator. As a result, sense of continuity, both emotional and temporal, must come from the plot itself. Therefore, I have decided to describe the life of the  protagonist in a narrow time span of three years from 2014 to 2017. The events in the protagonist’s life prior to this time span would find oblique references in the narrative. This is necessary because it allows me to minimise the depiction of external markers. I would be able to focus on the details of the plot unfolding.

         Moreover, since the past events would surface in the plot indirectly, this would give a new complexity to the plot itself. This resurfacing of events in the protagonist’s mind, by oblique reference, would provide a tool to depict the changes in the protagonist’s mindset. Similarly, all the other characters would connect to their past indirectly by connecting to the events unfolding during these three years. Since this novel is a third person narrative, the protagonist is not really a protagonist in the conventional sense. He is a protagonist because the plot revolves around him and not because his version of the narrative is articulated. In fact, it would be proper to think of life or the plot itself being a real protagonist in which the conventional protagonist occupies a central place. The protagonist is in the centre of the plot but he is not in the centre of the novel. The centre of the novel is the human angst in the contemporary life in Mumbai.

         As a result, each of these characters would evolve only marginally during the unfolding of the plot which spans three years, but it is their ability to connect to their individual pasts that would give an indication of their own perception of their personal evolution. Thus, the evolution of individual characters would be indirectly perceptible by their own reminiscences of their pasts, while the events of these years unfold. It is as if each of these characters lives these three years, but they live in the context of their individual pasts. Thus, the events are same, but how these characters interpret and react would tell readers about the evolution of each of these characters. Admittedly, this can only be done when a handful of these characters are developed in details. Therefore, there are two kinds of characters in the novel. There are characters whose lives are woven into the narrative and these are only a handful. Then, there are characters who are mere instruments to carry the plot further.

            The beauty of fiction writing is that sometimes, these characters surprise the  novelist. I found about this in my second novel. When I introduced a character called ‘Pakyabhai ‘ , he was merely an instrument to carry forward the plot. However, to my chagrin, he kept on reappearing in the novel without my knowledge and approval. In that sense, I can confess that this is my present intention of how this novel ought to be shaped. However, it is possible that any of the planned characters might hijack the narrative. Sometimes, the evolution of a character in a novel may overshadow the evolution of a novelist. This is true in life as well. Our own progeny sometimes overshadows us. Unlike novel, life is not a single narrative but a collection of narratives, each valid in itself and yet each being divergent from the remaining narratives. I only hope to capture this quintessence by using the third person narrative in my next novel.

         In my next blog, I would discuss how complex structure of the narrative becomes when one writes a novel spanning three years but the  history of thirty years.

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.

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. 

A WRITER IN TRANSITION. BLOG # 3.

                   IN SEARCH OF A THEME.

                  In my previous blog , I had discussed my transition from a first person narrative to a third person narrative. One of the necessities for such a third person narrative is that it looks at the story from outside. Therefore , by definition , it eliminates an individual perspective of the story. The conflict , therefore, doesn’t exist in the narrator’s mind , but it exists in the story itself. Therefore , the story told in such a novel becomes more important than the mindset of any of the characters. It is in this context , I would discuss my problems with selecting a theme of my next novel.

                 In my both the previous novels , I had sought to describe the mindsets of a  protagonist by depicting the distortion in his perception of reality. In such an approach , the plot of a novel plays a secondary role because no matter what happens in the story , what is illuminating is the protagonist’s perception of it. The distorted perception of the protagonist is a tool for depicting the human angst. However , in a novel based on a third person narrative , the plot itself becomes the tool for depicting the human angst. Therefore , the selection of the theme of a novel becomes critical for a novelist.

               As a novelist , I am averse to pick up a theme which is socially and politically sensitive. It is not that I do not have such views , but these views are my personal views and they are outside the public domain. Moreover , there is an inherent risk for a novelist while choosing such a theme. The factors that are extraneous to the literature , dominate appreciation of such a novel. It is not that I don’t believe in social equity and the need to reform our society to achieve such a social equity. It is just that I don’t think it is a novelist’s job to do it. I think that a novelist’s primary concern should be to make readers more introspective. If such an introspection leads to social equity,  it would be ideal. However , a novelist can not write a novel to bring about social equity. A novelist can only write to force readers to reflect on their own value system. I am not saying that a novelist can not be or should not be a social reformer. All I am  saying is that to become a social reformer , one doesn’t need to write a novel.

                 Returning to my search for a theme of my next novel , after finishing both these novels , I realized that I was more concerned with the nature of reality and our perception of it. I was convinced , more so after writing these novels , that our perception of reality is distorted by our subconscious emotional state. In that sense , both these novels tried to depict this distorted perceptions to highlight the underlying emotional state of the protagonists. However , during the process of writing these novels , I have found another aspect of this distorted perception. Our biggest problem arises not from the fact that our perception of reality is distorted , but it arises from the fact that we act in accordance with our distorted perception of reality. More importantly , our actions seem to crystallise our subconscious emotions. Therefore , our actions must be seen as expressions of our subconscious mind. It is as if our subconscious mind forces our conscious mind to express itself through our actions. Let me add that , in this context , our conscious thoughts too must be considered as our actions. In other words , our conscious mind is nothing but awareness of what is crystallised out from our subconscious mind. These include our conscious thoughts and our deeds. In fact , that is the reason why our religions equate bad thoughts with sins. In the Indian context , an evil thought is considered as bad karma.

                I am convinced that if this is a correct picture of how a human mind works , it is possible to simplify our moral values to two simple concepts. Firstly  , there is a sense of guilt that we experience and seek to compensate with atonement. Secondly , there is a sense of sacrifice and our need to feel nobility that arises from such a sacrifice. In fact , in literature , the notion of catharsis embodies both these senses. Therefore , I have decided to write my next novel based on the plot that embodies these senses of guilt and sacrifice. Surprisingly , some of the most memorable literary characters are personifications of simultaneous senses of guilt and sacrifice. However , I would not deal with the emotions that a protagonist would experience while undergoing the catharsis , but I would focus on the circumstances which force the protagonist to experience the catharsis. Therefore , I need a third person narrative which would tell readers what happened in the protagonist’s life. As to what the protagonist feels and how he achieves his redemption via catharsis , I would want readers to experience it themselves through identification.

                  I would end this blog with a hint that the protagonist would be forced to commit what he consciously knows to be wrong.  In  spite of his belief , he is forced by his subconscious mind to commit something wrong. The novel deals with how the protagonist achieves his redemption without being aware of what brought about this redemption. It is only in the climax that he would find the explanation of his guilt , his catharsis and therefore his deliverance.

             In my next blog , I would discuss we cope with our ambiguous moral sense.