My tendency as a writer is to lean towards character-driven plots. My strength is conjuring up intriguing, believable characters that my readers are not only drawn to but also find relatable. Characterization comes naturally to me. Somewhere in the writing process, I tend to neglect plot. Then, my stories end up being a typical French film where everything is all about the character but there is no real story or plot.
That was my initial issue with my novel. The inspiration for my novel came from an idea of character and psychology of such a person. I right away imagined my character and brought her to life. I was thrilled to see a unique, distinctive character.
As I made my way to the first pages of the first draft, I then discovered that I do not have a real plot. It seems that my characters just hanging in there. I do not want a formulaic plot of most genre fiction. Yet, at the same time I feel that I cannot pull off a postmodern novel, because you have to be skilled at it (or be a literary snob). And, I am neither. For a while, I struggled with the idea. I kept searching through writing, letting the ideas sit in my mind, and continuing to explore by reading other works and refreshing my writerly mind.
Then, I remembered my undergraduate class The Hero and remembered the heroic cycle. Around the same time, a coworker of mine mentioned that he too was writing a story but his is about a male heroic journey. We got into a conversation about the differences in a male and female heroic journey and how gender plays into the journey of a hero. At this time, I didn’t quite think about incorporating the heroic journey into my plot. As I slowly pondered the themes, character’s virtues and values—it suddenly made sense. It made sense to model my plot after the heroic cycle and invoke the familiar ideas of world mythology into my story. However, my story is a realistic novel set in the contemporary time. I tend to see the spiritual or the marvellous things in our ordinary, daily life. There is no need for magic or supernatural elements in the fiction, yet there are allusions and symbolism to the mythic.
I have studied other books that invoke a sense of myth and heroic journey, yet set in the contemporary time with ordinary things. There is no magic, fantasy, or imaginary lands. One book I have read so far that inspired me is Kamala Nair’s A Girl in the Garden.
It was encouraging to see that there are young, Indian writers exploring the psychological journeys of young Indian female protagonists and also willing to take risks and venture out into questioning our traditional cultural values. The ideas of family and community are vital themes.
Seeing comparable books encouraged me further into wanting to write some more. Of course, I am a unique voice. I have something different to contribute. Yet, I can’t help feeling nervous. I’m seeing all these talented Indian writers that I admire and respect. It’s not that I measure myself up to them as an aspiring, unpublished writer. It’s more that can I really deliver what I have in mind? Can I actually pen down those gradiose visions and ideas, so that my writing turns out the way I imagine it to be?
Maybe before I get there, I should be thrilled that I now have a plot that I can rejoice over…