Tag Archives: story

How to write a novel

My first class at ‘How to be a Writer’ started with a BANG.

“Mr Teecher, how does one begin a Novel?” I asked getting to the point straight. For I was clear, I want to write a Novel.

“Mr Ranga, we will come to that shortly,” said the long nosed thin Teecher.

But that was not good enough. I knew the fellow would start by teaching short stories and limericks. I had been warned of that by my friend Dhiraj. “These courses are no good,” he said, “they teach you to write short stories and limericks.”

So I persisted. “Mr Teecher, we must start with the Novel,” I said and grinned, for it was no good getting the fellow angry.

“All right,” quoth he, and shrugged. “Although it is irregular, but just to give the class a taste of the best in English literature of the twentieth century, we will begin with the Novel. Now the difference between other writings and the novel is that the latter has a setting and is rooted at a particular time and place. It has a set structure, with a beginning and a resolution. It is normally linear and….”

“All that very well Mr Teecher, but how to start it?” I said, knowing the fellow was making it sound too bad, so I would be discouraged. My friend Dhiraj had warned me of these tricks. Methinks, Dhiraj has attended a writer’s class sometime.

“The start of a Novel,” began the Teecher slowly, for he must have known he was going too fast, and he can’t fool us by going too fast, “can be of any kind. There is no set pattern. I will give you some examples of the beautiful starts of some of the classics.”

So saying, he opened his notebook and starts to read. The fellow has not done his homework, or he should have learnt these by heart. Anyway, this is what he said:

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Thus began Leo Tolstoy in his masterpiece Anna Karenina, setting the tone for the novel. ‘He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.’ wrote Ernest Hemingway in The Old Man and the Sea, positing the conflict of the novel in the first sentence itself…”

The Teecher had misunderstood me. “No, no. How do we start writing a novel, I am asking,” I made my good self clear and grinned, so he may not get annoyed.

The Teecher thought for some time. Slowly he kept his notebook aside, and thought some more. “Although there is a set sequence in which the students are introduced to the art of writing, seeing the enthusiasm of Mr Ranga, I will, for a change, begin with some tips on how to write a novel,” he said, getting my point. You have to be firm with these fellows, Dhiraj had told me, and he was right.

“You must have a plot, to begin with. A rough sketch of the storyline, as it were. The names and characteristics of the main characters must be drawn up…” he began, but I interrupted on an important point.

“Teecher, my drawing is not so good,” I confessed, for when you are going for learning, there is no harm in being honest. It gives man honor and dignity, to confess weaknesses, however painful it may be. Mahatma Gandhi did that, and see what happened to the British Empire.

“Ummm,” thought the teacher, made some faces, no doubt because of deep thought, and said, “Ok, skip the drawing part, just write the characteristics of your main characters – the protagonists…”

After a long lecture, in which I took copious notes, he ended by giving us assignment for the next class, which was, to prepare notes for the novel we wished to write.

***

I worked hard all week, with my notes. I even consulted Dhiraj, who said, do not tell all your notes to class, or other students will cheat and write novel of your bright ideas. That was a good point again, and I worked carefully, hiding some important facts about my main story and my main characters.

***

“Mr Teecher,” I began, when my chance came to read out my notes, which was after two silly girls, who wrote about their heroines who were in love with a Pirate and a Vampire, two different girls, I mean two different heroines…Anyway, as I said I began thus:

“Mr Teecher, my story is about a great man, who was a nobody and became a big man, but ended being a nobody at his death-bed, and thought about the missing opportunities he had for love and doing good. But now, he thinks, no good thinking that now, for it is all over, and I have played my innings.”

I paused for reaction, for I knew the idea was very modern. Generally, people do not show their great men coming down again in their novels. But I did not want to write routine old stuff.

“Go on, Mr Ranga,” said the Teecher, for he was hooked.

“That is all,” I said, for I did not want to reveal all to cheating fellows in my class.

“Mr Ranga, you will have to flesh out the plot. Where did the events take place, when, who were the main characters. And even the plot is too generic. Exactly what happens, how the man becomes great, how does his downfall come about,” said the Teecher.

“It happened somewhere in India, in the twentieth century,” I replied, not giving away much. “The hero was a businessman, who hit it rich in petroleum and becomes a Prime Minister.”

Again the Teecher interrupts me. “The novel has to be plausible. Imagination must be tempered,” he said.

I thought of Dhirubhai Ambani, and saw his point. “Ok, I said. The man makes it rich in the petroleum sector and becomes a king-maker. His decline comes because his sons are no good, and his daughters run away with drivers and actors.”

I was clear that it was not a Dhirubhai story, and this ending would make it clear. “At deathbed, he is in a refugee camp…”

The Teecher interrupts again. “Refugee camp? How did that come in?”

“There was a war in which he lost everything. His industry is nationalized,” I reply, grinning. I could see he had not foreseen that.

“But how does that make him feel about missed opportunities?” Teecher asked, clearly perplexed.

“Because he could have gone over to the enemies side, which was more powerful. But details later,” I said firmly, “Now for the characters. Man, his wife, his two sons, his two daughters.”

The Teecher sighed, “Describe your characters. For example, the description could be like – A balding middle aged man, of medium height. Greying, thin mustache on a rotund face. A middle-class businessman with delusions. Frowning and agitated demeanor. Of modest beginnings, which is evident in his style, dressing and language.”

Methinks, the Teecher dislikes me. It was clear he was describing me, hiding behind the great man in my story. But I let that pass, for, as Dhiraj told me later, Gurus become jealous of their chelas when the chelas start doing better than them.

We were given the task of writing synopsis for each of our chapters for our next class.

***

It was difficult to write synopsis without giving out too much information. I consulted Dhiraj, who said caution is better part of valour. No use showing off in front of class girls, he said, keep the synopsis short.

***

My turn for reading out my synopsis came two weeks later, for I had to listen to the rubbish by the girls about Vampires and Pirates. Some parts I liked, where the girls giggled and said there will be some lovemaking, and that gave me some idea to throw in the sexy parts in my synopsis, and I kept on rewriting and improving. But without giving out the intimate details, as they say.

“Mr Teecher, Chapter 1. Old man is born in a cheap family. He is the thirteenth child. He is put in village school. He decides not to join Mahatma Gandhi, for business is what he likes.

Chapter 2. He goes to college and works at night. Teachers are bad to him and girls giggle. Yes, just like that giggly girl in the front seat. But he is not deterred. He also feels attracted to a rich girl, but not says anything to her. This he will remember at the end of the novel, with regret.”

I look around for reactions, and was happy to note that the girl sitting next to me was smiling.

The rest of the synopsis went off well. Mr Teecher said I should start working on the novel ‘in right earnest’.

***

It has been two years since I wrote my first novel. It set me back two hundred thousand rupees to get it printed. My friends liked it a lot, and Dhiraj was very happy too. He said I should write more, but it is costly to get them published, so I will think about it.

Dhiraj was also right about the Teecher. He is jealous sort of fellow. I asked him to write a praise to be printed in the book. And what he wrote shows he wanted to be a writer, but did not have the guts. He wrote:

“The first novel of Mr Ranga is a notable effort in terms of the ground he has covered from being a semi-literate. The first time he showed up in my class, I knew he would write a novel and get it printed. He has that kind of money, and the burning desire to add respectability. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors as a novelist.”

Anyone can recognize the sarcasm, but he was right about the money and respectability, and so I let his words be printed in my book. In any case, one must not snub gurus. It is not in our culture. Also, my large heartedness would make the fellow squirm at his own mean-ness.

I dedicated the book to Dhiraj, my wife, my two sons and my two daughters. It was unveiled at a glittering ceremony by the Prime Minister.

***

Advertisements

An incident in the park

imagination____by_punktlosThe child, about six years old, sitting on the park bench was looking curiously at me. It broke my reverie, and as an opening gambit, I smiled, but he continued to stare.

“What’s up young man?” I asked.

“What are you doing?” he asked, point blank.

That un-nerved me a little, for you never know what the kid was thinking. I played safe, “Just imagining things,” I said.

“What things?” he asked.

“All sorts of things,” I said, not really getting the hang of the conversation.

“Why?” he said.

Now there is little you can do when a young person asks you why. So I deflected the question, “My imagination saw your imagination there,” I said, pointing towards the sky.

That hooked him. We were on familiar territory now, in the world of imaginations.

“Where,” he asked. Perhaps he wanted to know the exact location of our imaginations.

“There, above the clouds,” I said, “Where lots of imaginations live.”

“Imaginations live above clouds?” he asked, curious.

“Not all,” I said, “but the better ones like to live above the clouds.”

“How do you know?” he asked.

“I have been studying imaginations all my life. I am an expert on them. My imagination meets the imaginations of so many people. That is what I was doing. ‘I was connecting’,” I explained.

The expression on his face turned to respect. It takes one to know one.

“Your imagination tells you everything?” he asked.

“Imagination can tell anything. Many things that even the scientists do not know,” I said.

“And they don’t lie?” asked the kid, for he wanted to be on sure grounds before proceeding further into the world of imaginations.

“Imaginations can tell you anything, it is up to you to believe them or not. They are not very particular about truth, but they are powerful none the less. They know the truth, which is sometimes difficult to find,” I said.

“But truth is easy to see. They are like facts,” the kid remarked.

“Not so. Most of the times truth is hidden behind layers of feelings. But imagination knows truth, for truth is sweet and imagination is powerful. I will give you an example. There are many poor children who have not seen the inside of a normal home. They imagine how it may be and are happy.”

“They can go anywhere they can imagine,” he asked.

“Yes of course, like you can go on an adventure, or on a spaceship, or fly with superman or fight the aliens. My imagination once saw a beggar child imagination what it would be to go around the city in a car. I decided to take him along with me in my car. And I did. At the end of the ride I asked him how he liked it, and he said, it was good, but he had been around earlier also. I asked him when, and he said, in his imagination. So, you see, imaginations can be pretty accurate.”

“Wonderful!” he exclaimed.

“No, but remember, not everyone is blessed with such great imaginations,” I cautioned, for I knew that he would feel that the world doesn’t need anything more than imagination. “Moreover, the soul needs imagination, but the body needs more worldly solid things.”

He was disappointed, for he seemed to detect a fly in the ointment. “My dad was saying it is all fool’s paradise,” he said.

“Not so. Newton to Einstein, Aristotle to Marx, Leaonardo da Vinci to Picasso – all the great men have had great imaginations, ones they believed in.”

“What was my imagination doing?” asked the boy.

“I don’t know. Did not talk to it. It seemed busy,” I said.

“Yes, it was. It was catching snakes. Huge snakes,” he nodded and said.

“Ah, that explains it. Your imagination was looking very preoccupied,” I said.

“How did you recognize it was my imagination?” he suddenly asked.

“It looked like you,” I said simply.

“Oh,” he said, “there must be millions and billions and gillions of imaginations up there?” he said.

“Not so. Only few imaginations soar so high. Mostly those of kids. Only few adult imaginations go there. Most adult imaginations can not even cross the clouds, let alone reach space. But the one that can go into space can go anywhere in the universe. No, even beyond the universe, but that needs more power,” I explained.

“What’s beyond universe?” he asked.

“Don’t know yet. Have not been able to go there. Imaginations of saints and really good people are so powerful as to break out of universe. But I have talked to some of those who have been beyond, and they say it is wonderful, for there it is without rules and limitations and free,” I said.

We were silent for a while, as we tried to imagine beyond universe. The little boy’s sigh told me that this time he had failed. And that is the danger of growing up. “Boy, never give up imagination even though at times it will not be able to take you where you want. The imagination of the adults becomes feeble only because they stop believing in them. They start believing too much in the real world, which, I am sure you know, is also imaginary,” I concluded with a smile, and decided to let his imagination figure out the rest.

***

 ((Pic courtesy: punktlos from the net))


The day of enlightenment

Nobody knew who had floated the idea of calling the yoga Guru to the office for a de-stressing, spiritually enhancing course, but it was certain that no one admitted to being the father of the idea.

The Guru, when he arrived, did not inspire confidence, or spiritual or peaceful thoughts.

When the overweight, shrewd-looking, shifty-eyed Guru arrived with half dozen disciples, including one pretty young thing in tow, the top management glanced at each other furtively and bowed.

Since the decision for the course on spiritual upliftment of the branch managers was ultimately taken by Superboss, it had to be right. Since the Guru was finally approved by Superboss, he had to be perfect, and deserved reverence.

All work for the day was suspended, all meetings cancelled. The environment had to peaceful and non-materialistic. The Guru was costly, and it was in the interest of the company to utilize the benefits of his wisdom to the maximum possible extent.

“X will sit near that girl,” murmured Mr A sotto-voice, “he is hardly going to have too many spiritual thoughts today.”

I glanced at Mr X, and knew Mr A was right. Though Mr X was the arch-rival of my boss Mr A, and in the past there have been skirmishes in which the two have charged each other with crimes they did not commit, in this instance, the facial expression of Mr X gave him away. He was positively smitten by the pretty disciple, and seemed to want a private discourse from her.

The conference hall was converted into the meditation centre, and for once, the huge chair at the head of the table was occupied by the Guru and not Superboss. The later seemed to be miffed with this, and it was evident he had not foreseen his demotion. He glared at Mr A, who was heading admin for the time being, for not thinking ahead and arranging for two huge chairs at the head of the table. Superboss sullenly sat at one of the smaller chairs, and had his first brush with spirituality – how to soothe a wounded ego without throwing a tantrum.

When everyone had settled down in strict accordance of seniority, the Guru surveyed the scene haughtily and began his discourse with an Aum.

That was the only Sanskrit word to be used that day. After the Aum, the Guru began in clipped English, trained no doubt during his earlier avatar as a corporate hunk. Though I have not researched the background of the Guru, it is my belief that he must have been a marketing guy, and would have realized that Guru-dom can be a lucrative consultancy service for corporate clients. And he was right in his assessment. We were paying him handsomely for the day.

From that point onwards, it was all downhill. The Guru harangued us for hankering after material gains and not devoting sufficient time for really important things in life. Like, laughter. Not that the Guru practiced what he preached – he sat all annoyed and bitter and gave a long discourse on laughter. Mr X tried to implement the instruction in right spirit. He first smiled at the pretty disciple, and then, to make it more authentic, laughed out loud.

That disturbed the Guru, who changed the subject and for the next hour spoke on the need for controlling our basic nature. Discipline, he said, was key to a balanced life. All the while he kept looking at Mr X with barely concealed hostility. Not that it had much of an effect on Mr X, who kept smiling at the disciple, oblivious of the consternation he was causing to the Superboss, who seemed to have divined the cause of irritability in the Guru.

And as if that was not enough, Mr X decided to get a clarification.

“Um, sir, I mean Guruji,” he began, “is it not necessary to let oneself go, at least once in a while, to let our nature take its own decisions, so that we are free of bondages of the mind. I read Osha said so.” With that he looked at the disciple for approval.

It is not clear what irritated the Guru more – name of Osho, the question or that glance towards his gorgeous disciple.

With barely concealed hostility, Guru answered: “That is the sort of muddle headed thinking one expects in a place driven by greed and base instincts. I find the aura of this company reeking with self-serving and petty souls, who must meditate hard to overcome their limitations of soul and spirit.”

I do not know whether that answered the question or not, but that was what Mr X got by way of elucidation. I cannot say I understood it, but it seems Superboss did, and he nodded his head vigorously and glared at Mr X. Mr X looked expectantly towards the disciple for further clarification, but was met with a cold stare. It was then that he realized that he had blundered and scored a spiritual self goal.

Keen observer that he is, my boss, Mr A decided it was time he intervened.

“Swamiji, you have opened our eyes. How divinely right you are in your grasp of the situation. If we can but implement but a fraction of what you say, much of our miseries will vanish. May I take the liberty to propose that we conclude our morning session and proceed for lunch, swamiji?”

Superboss looked at Mr A approvingly. Swamiji looked at Mr A approvingly. The pretty disciple looked at Mr A approvingly. In fact all of us, with the notable exception of Mr X, looked at Mr A approvingly. Personally I was happy to escape the difficult path of spiritual upliftment.

At lunch I excused myself from attending the later session, on a pretext of urgent work, and Mr X was sent on an errand that Superboss suddenly remembered.

The next day, a happy Mr A remarked that the Guru was good and meaningful, and Superboss had the right idea of calling him. Some of us, he added, need to look within ourselves more and cleanse themselves.

When I asked him what the second session was all about, he said he had unfortunately dozed off due to heavy lunch and did not get to listen much of it. One thing I must point out about my boss – he knows when he does not need to lie. And to that extent, keeps his conscience sparkling clean.

***

 


A bedtime story

Two children were going home
In the night
When baddies came
And cried,
‘Kill them.’
 
Where was this?
All over. In the deserts
And in the subways
And on the roads
Of busy cities.
 
The children were brave,
But outnumbered, and small…
 
And suddenly Superman comes
With a whoosh…
No. He doesn’t. Don’t interrupt.
 
The children were left to die
Around the world.
 
Later, they fought for their lives
In a hospital
And all prayed for them…
 
I know, and God heard their prayers…
I SAID, DON’T INTERRUPT.
 
No they died.
Around the world.
 
Is there a moral in this story,
The child asked,
With tears in his eyes.
 
Yes, but it is for you to discover,
I lied.
 
The child would not have gone
To sleep
Otherwise.
 
***

Modern Parables – 5: Respect for sentiments

The political orientation of the Winged party is far from clear to anyone, including the founding fathers. Nor does it have a clear agenda. The owls and bats tended to oppose the leadership of the crows, while the eagles and vultures rarely attended the meetings.

The present meeting was presided over by a blind old bat, who was revered by all for his contribution to the cause of the avian society in the past. The powerful Crow family used him as a symbol to keep the flock together, while exercising power from behind his wings.

The meeting started on a gloomy note, with the mention of disappearing of the Swan, the beauty queen and the heartthrob of many. The disappearance had taken place in mysterious circumstances, and many felt the dog squad was not doing enough to nab the perpetrators of the heinous act.

“We must take the matter to King Sher Singh. Criminalization of the jungle is almost complete. The crocodiles or the Cat gang could be behind the crime. It is time someone raised their voice,” shrieked a woodpecker.

The Crow family – father, two sons and a daughter, all members of the party – looked distinctly uncomfortable. Papa Crow cleared his throat and tried to bring reason to the discourse:

“However sad we all may be over the disappearance of our beloved comrade, we must exercise restraint. For all we know, Swan could have flown to its native land in Europe. Conspiracy theories always lead to recriminations and disrupt the social order.”

The Crows had working relations with the cats and the crocs, and did not want the matter to escalate. They had a sneaking suspicion that someone from the Big Cats may have kidnapped the Swan, for swan meat was considered to be a delicacy in those circles. Though the new laws of the jungle gave protection to endangered species and foreigners, some animals were known to be above law.

Papa Crow’s voice of sanity did not have many takers, and in the heat of the moment, he was hooted down, and a resolution was passed for sending a strongly worded letter to the King.

The letter was read by the Wolf in the court, to derisive sniggers. Most of those present knew the final destination of the Swan, and smiled. Sher Singh also smiled, but dictated a carefully worded reply:

“The matter of the missing Swan has been brought to the notice of the government. We appreciate the seriousness of the matter, and assure our avian friends that all efforts would be made to trace the whereabouts of the respected Swan. Signed etc.”

“No need to promote these birds by sending a reply,” grumbled a leopard.

But Sher Singh knew how democracy worked. His rule from behind the veneer of democracy was based on respecting the sentiments of all, and on promoting the interests of some. He waived a hand, dismissing the objection, and indicating that next subject on the agenda be put up.

The Swan was forgotten by most within days, but the firmness and love of justice of Sher Singh, as evident from his reply to the Winged Party, was the subject of many a newspaper columns for months.

Moral of the story: Newspaper columnists know which side of their bread is buttered.

***


Modern Parables – 4: When the chicken crossed the road.

The chicken that crossed the road wondered what the fuss was all about.

“There is no rule about not crossing the road, is there?” asked the chicken, panicking at the brouhaha.

“Umm, no. But chicken are expected to be afraid of traffic, and not mess with their lives. You see, authorities want your own safety,” replied the Inspector.

“The state has become paternal and has assumed all the powers of a father. Where is the free will,” the wise old owl commented cheekily from the branch overhead.

“What is that supposed to mean?” asked an angry Inspector, wondering whether the old fool was once again trying to sow seeds of dissent among the public. “Do not play mischief with the lives of people. If there are rules, they are for the good of the animals, and respecting them makes for a happy and safe society.”

Though the owl did not want to get drawn into the controversy, he could not resist quoting the old rule that a razor should never be given to a monkey.

The inspector, who happened to be a monkey, and also happened to have a weapon on his person, saw through the seemingly innocent comment.

“Oo. So we are challenging the authority of law, are we?” he demanded. “I arrest you for obstructing an officer of law in discharging his duty.”

Soon the matter was taken up at the court of justice, presided over by a balding eagle.

It did not help matters that the eagle disliked the owl, or that the chicken, which was produced as a witness in the case, ranted about crossing the road with a zebra.

The Hon’ble eagle, in its legal wisdom, pronounced the owl guilty, and sent him for a month of community service.

The monkey, satisfied at having quashed a rebellion in the bud, recounted the instance to many an animals with the sole wish to establish respect for law in society.

The incident however had the reverse effect on some of the more sensitive birds, who flew into a rage, and started attending a secret society to counter the growing autocracy in the country.

The chicken was made the mascot of the secret society – something that led to much disgust in the powerful circles.

Soon, the full force of law, and this time it was heavy ammunition of police dogs and hyenas that tackled the budding insurgency. Law was pressed into action, and a large number of chickens were culled for the betterment of the society. The culled chickens were used to make soup and this was served to the lions. The pride, which ruled the jungle for the benefit of all, prided itself for being ecologically sensitive and not wasteful, and encouraged cooking up of animals given capital punishment.

The discussion that followed the party dwelled on the foolishness of the aspersions that are cast on the law of the jungle by foreign powers. “We know what is best for our people,” commented the oldest male lion of the pack, for in his life he had always worked for a just and inclusive society.

***


The Obstinate Hero: A cautionary tale for young writers

I have been had, treacherously, by my own hero. Only Julius (Et tu Brute) Caesar can truly understand my plight. For the others, I will always be the funny guy who slipped on the banana peel, the guy who could not write his first novel. It is true that I yielded to a force of unprecedented resourcefulness, but I shall still do what is right – I shall caution the young innocent writers of the world by telling them my story, as a cautionary tale.

The writing of my first novel began sometime last summer, on a happy note. I had the plot all tied up. It was as follows: The story begins with a flashback- a young law graduate (to be known as ‘the hero’ from here on) is married to a spoilt rich girl who is mentally unbalanced and a pest. Over the year he struggles hard to raise his five kids and becomes a successful lawyer. He is humble, compassionate, steadfast – a true hero. Cut to present – the five children of the hero are insensitive, repulsive, rebellious, and ungrateful. The hero ponders over life and its meaning, and sees hope in the smile of his grandchild, before putting in his papers.

Brilliant, as far as plots go. I am sure you will be reminded of Dickens and Tolstoy and Marquez, and rightly so. ‘An Epic’, the critics would no doubt have said, had the novel been written and published. Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: “It might have been!”

The problem between The Hero and me began from the first scene itself. As I was describing the hero as a sober, solid man of mettle, though a little sad and melancholy, The Hero made his first intervention in my mind, with a nasty comment.

“No young man is so dull. It is un-natural,” he said in a tone of unpleasant insolence.

Overcoming my surprise, I said in reasonable yet firm tone – “I actually know such a person, trust me.”

“You must not have known him well enough,” he said, raising his voice, “and in any case, that’s not me.”

Face with such intransigence, I decided to reveal more – “The person described here happens to be my grandfather, and the facts are true.”

“Facts! Bah,” the hero retorted.

I had to yield to that – no one can have a monopoly over facts. “You know different?” I challenged.

“I am your grandfather, I should know better,” he retorted, throwing Surrealism at me.

“You can never be him. You are my imagination of him,” I corrected him, falling into his trap.

“Exactly. And you are not imagining me right,” he said, with an irritating grin.

“If it is my imagination, surely I have the right to do whatever I want with it,” I said. But this conversation was going nowhere, and I was getting increasingly irritated. I took a deep breath and began again.

“So what should be changed, according to you?” I asked.

“The hero should be a fun person, and the heroine should be a fun person too, only a little temperamental. Five children are too many, though keep them if you want. I think more focus on the courtroom dramas would be better, especially the one where the British judge praised me,” he began in right earnest. I noticed that he knew everything about my plans for the novel, though I had not yet spelt them out in my draft plot. I also noticed that his idea of the novel was very different from mine. It was sort of a Perry Mason rolled into a Mills and Boon.

“I am seeking to present a relatively true story of a man I admire. I cannot fudge with facts to make it popular, if that is what you want,” I tried to reason with him.

“You are trying to be too literary and bombastic. A normal man lives a normal life, and the epic battles have to be shown with a light brush, maybe like James Joyce,” he said.

James Joyce light!! Give me a break.

I was not toying with literary greatness – I wanted to write an honest story, I tried telling him, but he would have none of it. The Hero would have to be made into a dashing figure, at least some of his children had to come good, and he would not die at the end, he insisted. The novel should end with reconciliation with either the wife or a daughter, on a happy note, with a possibility of sequels like it happens in the novels of the famous Horace Rumpole of Bailey.

“But the hero in my story is not like that at all,” I wailed in dismay.

“Then it is not I,” he replied, his grammar dubious, his tone final.

For a few days I struggled with the novel, but I was getting tired with the attitude of my hero. He would not even agree with the clothes that I gave him to wear – much less with the description of the heroine. I distinctly remember my grandmother of being short in height and having a small nose. But no. He remembers her as medium height with sharp nose and…well, he goes into great detail about her anatomy, none of which matches my memory of her.

To cut the story short, I had to reluctantly shelf the project. There was no other way. I would rather not have a novel, than write something in which I did not believe.

I know some sniggering critic would say that I did not have sufficient ability to control my material. But let me tell you this – no one could ever tell my grandfather what he should do, and the very idea that his memory can be controlled and molded to anyone’s wishes is laughable. Let the critics try, if they are so clever. I will give them all the facts.

***


%d bloggers like this: