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. 

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MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG # 31.

WHY DOESN’T A NOVELIST EVER STOP WRITING ?

               In my previous blog , I had discussed the difficulties that a novelist experiences in achieving an emotional closure while completing a novel. In this blog , I would discuss what prompts a novelist to start all over again. This question is closely related with the question why does someone write a novel begin with ? I can tell you from my own experience that when a novelist begins her /his first novel , there is an inarticulate urge to write. However , after having written and having finished one’s first novel , this urge is somewhat clearly defined and it is therefore more articulate. Therefore , when a novelist starts writing her /his second novel , she /he has a clearer picture of what prompts her /his creativity. It is this clarity that I would like to explore in this blog. Of course , now that I am about to finish my second novel , I am experiencing that bittersweet pangs of transition. Therefore , I think I am qualified to write about it.

                   I had mentioned in my previous blog that a novelist never really achieves an emotional closure even after a novel is complete. This results in two types of emotions in a novelist’s mind. Firstly , a novelist is tempted to refine and reinterpret her /his own emotions which were expressed in the completed novel. However , the trouble with this tendency is that the novel and characters created in that novel are no longer in the novelist’s control because they have acquired a life of their own. The only solution , and perhaps a profitable one in these days of franchise , is to write a sequel. However , my own feelings are ambivalent about writing a sequel. While it is easy to write a sequel because the universe of the prequel is already carved out and therefore it is easier and more productive for a novelist to enrich the emotional ecosystem of that fictional universe. However , there is a clear danger for a novelist of being stagnant. I think the core of fiction writing is not just  weaving of diverse emotions into a tapestry of narrative. The core also consists of narrative structure of novel. This narrative structure , if repeated , tends to lose its impact. Moreover , I think the city where the novel unfolds and the social milieu of the principle characters are equally important. In fact , I believe that they are separate characters of a novel. Therefore , when one writes a sequel , one needs to repeat these elements as well. This also leads to creative stagnancy.

                Incidentally , in my second novel , I was faced with a similar problem. My second novel is also based in Mumbai and also involves middle class Gujarati family. However , I have changed the geographical details and professional backgrounds of the principal characters. More importantly , the protagonist and his girlfriend  are required to travel to a different town in search of her reincarnation roots. Therefore , I could introduce a second city in the narrative.

        The second emotion that a novelist feels during the transition between novels is that of absence of reaffirmation of her / his self image. When a novel is being written , a novelist gets an opportunity to reflect on her/his self image because as the novel progresses , it reflects novelist’s internal thought processes which a novelist can observe from outside. Thus , during the writing of a novel , a novelist can constantly create her/his self image. Incidentally , I have developed a habit of writing daily. So, I can confirm that this continuous self cognition is beneficial. However , when a novel is complete , a novelist is prevented from this exercise. Therefore , it is natural for a novelist to pick up a pen and begin again. Of course , this process is not fixed. It depends on individual details of a novelist when she /he begins again. I began my second novel within a month of the publication of my first novel.

           This brings me to the last point of this blog. Does a novelist anytime feel that she /he can not write any more novels ? I am not sure about it. There are references to writer’s block in the literature. However  , that is only a temporary phenomenon. Most of the novelists that I have read and liked , wrote till their deaths. Of course , Hemingway is an exception. Ironically , he too wrote till he died , but he committed suicide because he felt that he could no longer write. Writing , to Hemingway , was not a profession but a reason to live. Therefore , his logic was simple , if he could not write , he had no right to live.

         Mercifully , it least from my selfish perspective , I have not reached that stage. I already have a vague outline of a plot for my next novel. However , the beginning of that novel is still some months away because I have yet to finish this novel and carry it tenderly through the stages of publication.

          In my next blog , I would unveil some details of my second novel.

               

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #30.

DOES AN END OF A NOVEL ALSO GIVE A NOVELIST AN EMOTIONAL CLOSURE ?

        In my previous blog , I had discussed the process of ending a novel. I had suggested that a climax and a twist in that climax are necessities. I had suggested that a novelist is bound to attempt to create a climax even when she/he knows that it is a difficult , if not an impossible task. In my last few blogs , I had described the structural and thematic compulsions for creating a climax in the narrative. While ending a novel is something that is preordained , it does not imply that a novelist is comfortable ending   a novel. Therefore , in this blog , I would discuss emotional problems that a novelist may feel while completing a novel.

        From a novelist point of view , this situation is poignant because she/he is torn between two conflicting emotions. On one hand , a novelist wants to end the novel because she/he wants to experience an emotional closure. On the other hand , a novelist doesn’t want to end a novel because , over a period of time , she /he has found a sense of identity with that novel and therefore would like the novel to go on. Therefore , in this blog , I would discuss my own experience while closing my two novels.

           The conflicting emotions that I mentioned above arises from the ambivalence that a novelist experiences towards the novel under preparation. On one hand , a novelist is observing the characters from outside. On the other hand , part of her/his own self gets indirectly reflected in these characters. It is this duality of frames of being an observer and a participant that gives rise to the conflicting emotions mentioned above. I recollect that when I began writing my first novel , I was hopeful of analysing my own creative instinct while writing that novel. As that novel progressed , I realized that the process of creative writing is far more complex than I had anticipated. Finding myself unequal to the task , I decided to focus on writing the novel. However , insights into my own creativity would surface in my mind now and again.

      As my first novel approached its climax , I experienced this duality of the frames for the first time. I was determined that I would not experience emotional closure as a novelist through the emotional closure of the protagonist. I wanted to arrive at my emotional closure through the plot itself. Since my first novel had two climaxes , one structural and one thematic  , it was easier for me to experience my emotional closure when the plot ended with the nervous breakdown of the protagonist. As a novelist , I felt satisfied that three different threads in the narrative converged into the climax. This convergence of three different threads required a creativity which I didn’t know I had. Therefore , when I could manage to bring about the convergence , I felt cathartic and cleansed as a novelist. Later on , when the protagonist found his own emotional closure by finding a new meaning of his life , I achieved my own emotional closure.

       In my second novel , I am nearing the end of the narrative. This time , I am trying to have a single climax having a structural momentum and a thematic depth. As I have mentioned in my previous blog , I wish to achieve this by introducing a twist in the climax. Therefore , my challenge is to make sure that the twist is already present in the backdrop of the novel but in a different context. Moreover , I want to surprise the protagonist and the readers as well. Therefore , I want to achieve my emotional closure as a novelist through the fine tuning of the twist in  such a way that it brings out tragedy of human life. This tragedy consists of our ability to delude ourselves with convenient explanations. The human mind is clever, but not clever enough to see through its own deception. The tragedy of human life is that our mind uses deception to make our life bearable , but in the process , our mind is itself deceived.

           There is another aspect of closure from the novelist’s point of view. It refers to the novelist’s own transformation during and after the writing of a novel. While ending a novel , a novelist may achieve an emotional closure , but that novel remains embedded in the novelist’s psyche. The true closure for a novelist happens when the plot , the characters and the theme of the completed novel are dissolved into the novelist’s subconscious mind. This process of dissolution takes a very long time. For instance , the details of my first novel and its narrative construction is very much present in my psyche. Of course , it helps me because every time I find an echo of my first novel in the second novel , I stop and make a conscious effort of not repeating myself. However , it does indicate that I have not achieved a complete closure in case of my first novel. While I make conscious effort of not repeating myself , I realize that , at a fundamental level , there is continuity between my two novels. This perhaps represent my inner self. In that sense , I don’t think a novelist can ever achieve complete emotional closure while ending a novel. That novel remains in the novelist’s sensibility forever. This continuity is inevitable because life itself goes on forever without achieving any such closure.

            In my next blog  , I would discuss why a novelist is inclined to continue writing novels. The question that bothers me is that is there any point in a novelist’s life , when She /he feels that she/he has nothing new to offer and therefore must stop writing novels ? Frankly speaking , I can’t think of myself ever reaching that saturation point. However , I want explore the motives and motivations of a novelist that prompts her/him to begin again. I would discuss these issues in my next blog. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #27.

HOW FAST OUR LIVES ARE IN COMPARISON TO OUR PARENT’S LIVES ?

          It is universally accepted that we live relatively faster life than that of previous generation. When we think of our parents , we conjure up an idyllic picture of easy paced life when we were growing up. Our belief in our comparatively faster life is further strengthened by our belief that modern technology has offered more options than those available in our parent’s life time. This is , by and large , true. However , we make mistake in thinking that earlier life was slow and therefore it was more tranquil. It is true that there were less options available to people in earlier generations. It is also true that people were less mobile in earlier times. However , it would be a category mistake to think that life earlier was less frenetic or less stressful. This mistake arises from the fact that we overlook how our mind works.

           It is not number of options available that decides the pace of life. It is our indecision to make choices that sets the pace of our lives. The human nature is such that it is equally burdened with decision making whether we are dealing with few options or hundreds of options. This may sound strange , but it is true. When we have large number of options , our mind picks up only the top few options while making a choice. Therefore , mind spends quite some time in making a choice and it doesn’t really matter how many options are available. Our mind is involved in constant conflict of making choices. Therefore, our sense of living a fast life mainly arises from this constant dilemma of making choices. It does not really matter technologically how advanced we are. What matters is how fast our choice making processes are. In that sense , every generation feels that it is living a fast life. We may find such assertions from our parents rather comic but from there mental perspective , this is a valid perception. It is more than certain that our children would find that we have lived in a slow paced life. Therefore , our external yardstick of measuring fast paced life is not in harmony with our internal perception of pace of life.

      In this blog , I would pick up this aspect of our perception. There are two aspects that I would discuss here. Firstly , I would discuss whether our personalities have altered because of fast pace of life or not. Secondly , I would describe my own difficulties in creating a plot that appears as a slow paced to the readers even when the characters feel that there is a constant rush in their lives. The beauty of fiction writing is that it allows a novelist  (and therefore readers ) to stretch a brief moment into eternity and a life long experience into a flitting moment. I would describe in this blog , how I sought to achieve a balance between the different paces of life say thirty years ago and our contemporary life.

          Let me tell you how difficult it was to have the protagonist of this novel to interact with two women in different phases of his life. His trouble is that he suspects that both women are in fact the same individual in two different births. The first woman was his girlfriend when he himself was young. The second woman is also a young but he is , by now , a sixty year old man. Therefore , he finds it difficult to adjust. Part of his mind tells him that he is an old man , whereas part of his mind tells him that this young woman is his girlfriend from the past. At some point in the novel  , he realises that it is his own mind that is playing tricks with him. What he remembered as his tranquil past of his girlfriend turns out to be a selective amnesia. The new woman makes him confront the reality and his own true self. At that point the protagonist realises that the life is always complex and fast. It is because we selectively remember the past that it appears to be smooth and slow.

           As a novelist  , I found it difficult to portray this deception in the protagonist’s mind. However , I accidentally found the answer to this difficulty. When I began narrating the protagonist’s younger days , I spent quite a few pages in creating the details of his background. However , as the plot developed , these very details became instruments of pushing the story further. The plot quickened on its own momentum. Since the novel is in a part flashback and part now frame of reference , this matched very well with the present fast paced life. However , the bottom line is this. The life is even paced. It is how our mind chooses and selectively remembers that gives us a false impression that our present life is faster than the  life a generation ago.

         Since my novel is nearing it’s climax , I would discuss in my next blog what kind of problems a novelist faces while creating a climax. I would also discuss whether and why should a novel have a climax. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #24

REINCARNATION AND EMOTIONAL CONTINUITY.

           In my previous blog , I had discussed the role of technological changes in shaping our emotional universe. I had suggested that though human emotions are absolute in some sense , their nuances would be different and be influenced by societal changes including technological changes. I had cited instant gratifications provided by communication technologies as a prime example of this type of changes. I had suggested that delayed gratification enriches our emotional development which is missing in the post Internet era.

          Purely from a novelist’s point of view , these different emotional stages are important because every character in a novel must have particular emotional depth depending on each character’s societal background , including the sophistication of technologies available in the society. While  this is a routine requirement for writing a novel , it needs to be fine tuned depending on the social backgrounds of the main characters of a novel. Normally , a novelist tries to differentiate between characters belonging to different age groups by detailing different emotional stages of these characters. While doing that , sometimes a novelist also incorporates the technological influences on these characters. In this blog , I would discuss my own experience in dealing with this aspect of characterization. In my second novel , this problem is slightly different because the character is supposed to be a reincarnation of a character present in the first half of the novel. Therefore , the reincarnated character has to be similar and dissimilar at the same time.  Moreover , since there is a time gap of around twenty five years between these two avatars , the emotional stages are different in each of these avatars. As the novel depicts the year 2016 , the present avatar had to be a tech savvy unlike her previous avatar. Therefore , I would discuss this aspect in this blog.

          As I have mentioned in earlier blogs , the key appeal of the theme of reincarnation in fiction lies in the emotional continuity of the character being born again. If the reincarnated character were not to have any memories of its past lives and emotions experienced earlier , the whole purpose of this literary device of reincarnation would be lost. Therefore  , it is vital that a reincarnated character must have such memories of the past lives and that these memories must guide the behaviour of this reincarnated character. However , I found that the problem with this reasoning is what should be carried forward from the previous birth and what should be new in this birth. On one hand , I wanted her to have identical emotions and morality , but on the other hand , she had to have different sensibility in tune with the modern times. This is where I became aware that how technology changes our emotional experiences.

        I realized while writing these different avatars , that beneath the notion of reincarnation , there lies a deeper understanding of what constitutes an individual person. I think  that when we refer to soul , we are actually referring to some aspects of an individual that do not change with each incarnation. In reincarnation , these immutable aspects of an individual must be taken as a soul of that individual which are transferred unchanged. As a novelist , I find it tempting to think that these immutable aspects are nothing but our emotions in their absolute form. In that case , the purpose of individual’s life ought to be to experience these absolute forms of emotions in their purest states. The fiction , therefore , plays an important role in enabling the readers to experience this emotional bliss.

       At present , I am detailing the second birth of the reincarnated character. This character happens to be a reincarnation of the girl friend of the protagonist. Or this is what the protagonist suspects. My problem is how to differentiate between these two avatars. It is important that these two avatars must have something in common and still be distinctly different. I am trying to use Internet access , and the information overload that comes with it , to create more forthright and open minded character which , at a deeper level , is the same woman with  whom the protagonist was in love. The novel is about whether the protagonist’s belief turns out to be true or not. More importantly , as a novelist , I am more concerned about how these changed , but still unchanged , emotions help the protagonist to find out the truth.

           In my next blog , I would discuss why a novelist should not prove or disprove any belief. A novelist’s task is to portray an emotional journey of the fictional characters that helps these characters to find their own versions of truth. A novelist can hope that this emotional journey would inspire the readers to undertake their own pilgrimage to find their own versions of truth. In my second novel , my focus is not on whether the notion of reincarnation is true or not. I am more concerned about how the protagonist travels through his various emotions to arrive at his version of truth of reincarnation. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #23

DO OUR EMOTIONS CHANGE WITH THE  TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGES ?

         In my previous two blogs , I had discussed the idea of generation gap and its relevance to fiction. I had suggested that it is not just the age difference but the different emotional stages of human beings that appears to us as a generation gap. However , the question of what influences our emotional development still remains to be answered. Our collective perception on this topic is that it is the social and family backgrounds that shape and control our emotional growth. By and large ,  this is also corroborated by the academic research. Though , there are different nuances of this perception between the popular belief and academic opinion , it seems reasonable to assume that this perception is valid. However , there is one aspect of our emotional development that has been missing from public perception. This aspect is increasingly being studied by psychologists but has yet to percolate down to our collective psyche. This is the aspect of the role of technology in influencing our emotional development.

        It seems intuitive to lay persons that due to technological advances ,  our way of thinking has changed. For instance , it is common for people from older generation to complain about lack of arithmetic skills in younger generation. With the advent of calculators and computers, the younger generation does not need to remember the tables by heart. Therefore , there is no denying the fact that mnemonic tricks of remembering large number of tables and tricks of fast calculations are altogether missing in the generations growing up in the days of these calculating devices. While this inability to calculate numbers mentally does not produce any handicap in the cognitive development of young children , the fact remains that the technology has deprived these children of certain mental agility. While this influence of technology on our thinking appears to be self evident , the question is whether similar influence of technology on our emotions happens or not ?

       In this blog , I would look at this aspect of technology. More importantly , I would discuss this aspect from a novelist’s point of view. It is one thing to say that our emotions are shaped by the technology and it is quite different thing to create characters personifying two different types of emotional responses. I became aware of this aspect of our emotional universe when creating a character who was supposed to have been reborn. The literary context of reincarnation is to show that basic emotional content of the reborn individual  remains unchanged.  However  , the fact that the technologies would change in the intervening period, would obviously mean that the emotional development in two generations would also be different. It was while trying to keep balance between the emotions carried forward to the next birth and the emotions that were new in the next birth ,  that I came across this realization.

        Therefore , let us see how the technology influences our emotional universe. At the outset , I would admit that I personally subscribe to the notion that human emotions are absolute in the sense that they do not change amongst different cultures and different times. I believe this to be true because we have all been able to enjoy great literary pieces irrespective of their vintage and their cultural origins. While reading Shakespeare  , we are able to identify with the characters and experience catharsis simply because the emotions brought out by Shakespeare are universal. Similarly, which reading Kalidasa , we experience same catharsis even though the characters belong to the distant past. Therefore , it seems reasonable to me that there is something absolute about human emotions that transcends the cultures and history. In fact , this absoluteness of human emotions justifies the appeal of reincarnation in popular literature.

        If this is true , then the problem is how could anything , let alone a technology , alter such universal nature of emotions. The answer lies in the fact that while our basic emotions are absolute , its nuances are not. What Shakespeare said about love being a many splendored thing , is true for all emotions. We experience same set of basic emotions in our lives again and again. However,  every time there is a different nuance of that basic emotional content. It is here that changes in emotions manifest. In that context , let me discuss the role of technology.

        I am sure most of you would agree that the most important change , that new technologies have brought about , is the way we communicate. The change consists of not only in the speed with which we can communicate but also of the content of our messages. Sometimes , our inability to communicate with persons close to us would result in a sense of restlessness and anxiety. This aspect of being separated from loved ones is universal and has  found its expressions in some of the greatest works of art. However , in the days Skype and instant messaging  , the sense of being separated from the loved ones doesn’t manifest. Obviously, the contemporary literature doesn’t have any such master pieces depicting the angst of separation.

        In fact , this is true of not just the deprivation the sensuous company of our beloved , but it is true of all sensory gratifications. The inherent merits of delayed gratification and its role in enriching our emotional universe are lost in modern times. The on demand supply of pleasures has atrophied our sensibilities. Therefore it would be fair to say that the technology ,  in its abstract sense ,  has blunted our emotions even while increasing our sensory pleasures. The technology has disconnected our emotions from our sensory pleasures. To that extent , the technology is indeed dehumanising. It deprives us of individual sensibilities and therefore of our individualities.

        In my next blog , I would discuss this aspect of changing technology in creating a changed sensibility of a person who was supposed to have been reborn. My focus would be on the problem of creating such characterizations rather than on validity of the concept of reincarnation. 

MY SECOND NOVEL BLOG #22.

IS THERE A GENERATION GAP ? PART II.

        

         In my last blog , I had discussed the psychological perspective of generation gap. I had suggested that it is the difference in emotional development between the two individuals of different ages that appears to us as a generation gap. In this blog , I would discuss the literary context of the notion of generation gap.  There are two aspects to this literary context. Firstly , does our choice of fiction depend on our age ? In other words , do we change our choice of novels as we grow old ?  The second aspect of this literary context of generation gap  is about  novelists.  Should novelists try to write fiction keeping in mind the age group of their potential readers ? I would try to deconstruct both these aspects in this blog.

        Let me begin with our choice of fiction and how it changes with time.  I am sure most of you would agree that each one of us has a set of favourite childhood books that we still remember and cherish. We also know , in our hearts , that we don’t remember and cherish these stories because they are literary master pieces. This is not to suggest that these stories are not literary master pieces.  Rather , we remember and cherish them, not because of their literary merits, but because they have left deep impression on our minds. In our formative years , when our emotional universe was being created , these stories were first to enter our sensibilities and have left indelible marks on our sensibility. In fact , it happens sometimes that these stories become benchmark for us to define what a great fiction should be . We evaluate all the other fiction that we read later in our lives in the context of this benchmark. However , this benchmark is not permanent.  As we grow old and read more and more fiction  , this benchmark also changes. However this refinement of benchmark is not universal. There would be individuals who stop reading fiction and their benchmark remains unchanged.  It is common to find grown up individuals who still keep reading juvenile literature. In fact , it is possible to classify people based on their literary preferences. This is not being judgemental, even I have stopped reading fiction some years ago. That fact , by itself , does not make me less perceptive. The key insight is that each one of us read only some kind of fiction and our likes and dislikes of fiction would be shaped by that repertoire.

            This brings us to the question of generation gap in case of readers. If what I have written above is true , then it is obvious that our sensibilities are shaped by the kind of fiction that we read. More importantly, what we read during our childhood leaves a lasting impression on our sensibilities. However, the tragedy is that , at some point in our lives , we stop growing emotionally. We become less receptive to new emotional experiences , including the ones that a good fiction may offer. From that point onwards , our emotional universe is frozen in time. This is also reflected in our perception of what is a good fiction. Thus  , there are no generation gaps amongst the readers but we have readers frozen in different sensibilities representing different emotional stages of human mind.

       I came across this realization while writing my novels.  In my first novel  , the protagonist was a bibliophile. He was obsessed with books.  While creating that character, I realized that I could correlate his subpersonalities with different types of fiction that I had shown him to be liking. The emotional conflicts within his mind were mirrored in the different types of fiction. Even in my second novel , which I am writing now , I have similar experience.  Here the protagonist doesn’t like reading fiction. However, under the influence of his girlfriend , he starts reading detective fiction. However , due to  circumstances , he stops reading fiction and therefore, his sensibility is still struck in his earlier reading of detective fiction.

       Now , let me turn to the novelist’s perspective of generation gap. There are two aspects to this perspective. Firstly , it is apparent from the discussion that a novelist would be in a particular emotional developmental stage while writing a novel, thereby representing particular age group. Moreover  , over a period of time , a novelist would evolve from one emotional stage to another.  These transitions would naturally reflect in the novelist’s fiction. It is standard practice in literary criticism to evaluate the novelists in the context of their lives.

         However , I am not concerned here about natural changes in a novelist’s sensibility and its reflection in that novelist’s creative outputs. This relationship is at the heart of creative writing and therefore sacred to me.  I am concerned about whether a novelist ought to consciously fashion the fiction with particular age group of readers in mind. In present times  , when the emphasis is on targeting the specific audience has become a major concern due to high cost of publishing and marketing books ,  this is an ethical dilemma. I am willing to accept a possibility that even a novelist wants to focus on particular age group of her /his readership simply because the novelist feels that the theme of the novel would appeal to narrow segment of readers. The key question is whether a novelist can do so without compromising  literary merits of the fiction ?

       I  think the answer is no.  A novelist can not fashion a novel , for any external considerations ,without compromising the literary merits of the novel.  However , it may happen that due to emotional resonance between the sensibility depicted in the novel and the prevalent sensibilities of a particular age group of readers, a novel may find a niche readership.  The point is a novelist can not consciously tailor a novel for the target audience. If such a targeting happens due to emotional resonance, it is always welcome ,but it can’t be manufactured.

        I am not asserting this view from any high moral ground . Rather, I think it is not possible for a novelist to do such a thing because a novelist is driven by her/his creative processes which are  , in some sense , not in novelist’s control. To think of a novelist as a master of creative processes is wrong. A novelist is a prisoner of her /his creativity. A novelist may be able to filter and refine the outputs of her/his creativity but can never manufacture a made to order fiction. Therefore my rejection of targeting a particular generation by novelists is not based on any idealism but it is based on limits of literary autonomy in creative writing. I can say this from my own experience. My first novel was written from the perspective of a middle aged protagonist. Therefore , I was determined to make use of different age groups of characters in my second novel. However , halfway through,  I realized that it is the characters , themselves , who have their own sensibilities. I , as a novelist , did not have much of a choice in deciding the sensibilities of the characters of my novel. I could only observe them just as any worried but an indulgent parent would do. There are times when I think that the characters of my novels conspire against me and make me dance to their whims and fancies. There may be or may not be a generation gap in real life , but I can tell you that there exists a definitive generation gap between a novelist and her /his characters.  This is because a novelist , being in loco parentis , is forced to understand and appreciate the travails and tribulations of her /his characters ,but the characters , being   enfante terrible, are oblivious to a novelist’s plight.

        In my next blog ,  I would discuss how  changing technologies have influenced our own sensibilities. This is important from literary point of view because not just our idiom of expression but also our way of thinking has undergone a change due to change in technologies. I found it difficult to create a different sensibility for a young girl who appears in the second half of the novel.