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.