Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Writing the Prequel

Now that Govinda is done, (at approximately 230,000 words) and awaits judgment from potential publishers; my only hope at sanity is to keep plodding on – Rudra be praised, there’s a book two!

The Cowherd Prince, or TCP, as I’ve begun calling it already, is a prequel to the events that take place in Govinda. While that has its advantages, namely, taking for granted that certain information is already out there; it also leaves me with many challenges. How does one create suspense, without creating a sense of déjà vu? At the same time, how does one say something new, and not have the reader wonder why something so important was never mentioned even once, during the course of Govinda.

This sits on top of an already existing challenge – one that I’ve faced while writing Govinda: How do you surprise and excite, when part of your reader audience already knows what the story is?

One literary technique would be to let the main characters feel the tension and suspense, and let it it flow over to the readers in a vicarious experience. But that does not always work.

As an avid reader myself, the last thing I would want is one of the characters to go; ‘By Varuna! I never saw that coming,’ while I’m smarting along the lines of, ‘Dude! You’re the only one! How dumb can you get?’

The other technique I’ve read of, would be to let go of surprising the reader with the storyline, and instead make it interesting as a narrative. The details, the speech, and the stroke-by-stroke of a sword fight… these can keep up the pace when the storyline is well-known. Good writers know this; any pay attention to these factors even when their plot does not lack suspense.

Then, of course, there is the K.D. Vyasa method. Question. Disagree. Explain. Convince. Whether the readers agree with you or not, they remain involved; they become part of the story… In some cases, like the characters of the Mahabharata, it is obviously so. Others, like us, will remain silent participants.

And that leads to something I must remind myself of every now and then, as the daunting task of writing TCP (hopefully, a slightly shorter book than Govinda), begins:

Mayaivaite nihatah purvameva
Nimmittamatram bhava Savyasacin

By my doings, they (the enemy) are already slain,
Become the instrument (of that death) Savyasacin (Arjun).

(Bhagavat Gita: 11.33)

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