Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Pesky Little ‘I’

I love writing. To me it is an extension of storytelling and I always loved story telling; especially telling the kind of completely nonsensical stories which would keep kids on the edge of their seats, clutching their sides and laughing hysterically. But there are some serious differences between spontaneously telling a story and writing a Novel.

In my case, these differences are slightly less. For example, most authors, I believe plan their plot in advance and have their characters fleshed out and gnashing their teeth, raring to go even before the first word is written. In my case, Oops the gurgle had to take his bamboozler out of his pocket and aim it at his opponent, before I decided whether Oops wanted to erase his memory, freeze him into an icicle or just give him a gentle tickle. In the dark planet, when all lights suddenly go out, I rack my gray cells to figure out if a slimy slithery 20 foot slug should devour the protagonists or whether invisible creatures should laugh ghoulishly at them. Basically what I am trying to drive at is that I write novels, much like I tell stories; on the spur of the moment. I find this keeps me mentally alert and gives me batting practice to face all the googlies life throws at me J

But this was where the crux of the problem lay. It was when I tried to make the novel conversational and free flowing that a completely unwanted character reared its puny little head. It was ‘I’. ‘I’ slipped into the story completely without warning at several places. Normally, I wouldn’t have minded ‘I’ jumping in to hog the credit for a particularly juicy anecdote or to relate a really funny incident. But when I sent the manuscript to my editor, the primary platypus, Sayoni completely booted ‘I’ out.

“The omniscient first person is completely unacceptable. Please see to it that he stays out,” she told me sternly.

I bridled. I pretended as if I really cared for ‘I’ and just couldn’t chuck him out. “After all,” I told the platypus “this is my writing style. ‘I’ has to make an appearance every once in a while to build rapport with the reader.”

The platypus was at heart quite soft and supportive of poor struggling authors. I could hear heavy silence from the other end of the phone. The platypus was presumably swishing her tail in consternation.

Finally, after I went to the extent of telling her “without ‘I’ piping in from time to time, I feel like I am reading someone else’s work,” she agreed to keep the guy in.

If  you are now thinking, “Yay, RamG, way to go. This is how the oppressed classes (authors) should assert themselves with the oppressors (editors/publishers),” you are jumping to conclusions. Sayoni the platypus, who has seen many an author and who is well versed with various tactics of bringing a rebellious author under control was far subtler than I thought. She sent my manuscript to a critic. After a week, I got a forwarded mail from Sayoni.  Mind you, a simple forwarding of the critic’s mail to her with no comments whatsoever of her own.

It said – “the book had me in complete splits. But I don’t know how to say this, every time I got really immersed in the plot and was chewing my nails off, a wise guy would suddenly spring up and start making funny comments. A bit like God. Are authors supposed to do that? Can we keep him out, please?”
I read and re-read the forwarded mail. I knew when I was defeated. I decided to boot ‘I’ out.

Easier said than done. I had to break the news to ‘I’.  ‘I’ was completely pissed when I broke the news.

“Dude, first of all, you promised an autobiography in which ‘I’ would appear at least once per sentence. I was so thrilled. Then you completely welshed and went and wrote some idiotic book on beings with brains in their bottoms and other such crazy stuff, thereby banishing ‘I’ completely. You can’t blame me for trying to sneak in a few times! Have a heart.”

I felt sorry for the poor guy. I could see his point. I was the one who had given him hopes of a book full of him by promising an autobiography. At the same time, I knew that it would be idiotic not to take the advice of the wise platypus. Finally after racking my brain for several seconds, I came up with an unbelievably amazing solution.  All I had to do was to add an asterisk (the star thingy, not Obelix’s friend) wherever ‘I’ used to be. Then ‘I’ could come in with his wisecracks as footnotes. ‘I’ was thrilled with the suggestion. So was the platypus. Peace reigned throughout.

But I know this is temporary. If I don’t come up with an autobiography and give ‘I’ squatting rights in every sentence, ‘I’ would be really unhappy. What is more, I knew ‘I’ would also rope in ‘me’, ‘mine’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ into the conflict. If I were ‘I’, I know that ‘I’ would do exactly that.

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