Author Jazz Singh talks to us about the genesis and metamorphosis of the ideas, concepts, scenes and characters of books, “Only a Dream” and “Against all Odds.”
Only a Dream is about betrayal. This is a common enough theme, I know, but to me it was a challenge to put all the different stories about it in a new set up, create situations and characters around it. Once I had put Varun, the main character in the hotel line, I had to have Rhea do something where they would meet.
Since these are romances for us and by us, the interfering friends and family find place in all my stories. This is the world around me and what I understand. In Against All Odds the idea was to put together two people, who in normal circumstances would not cross each other’s paths. It was loads of fun creating situations for them to meet in and then show their differences. Many of my stories, even those unpublished as yet, have some social issue at the core. Frankly, this was the initial brief given to me by my publisher at Indireads. Later, when it was withdrawn, I stuck with the idea because it made sense. There are many such issues out there that make for a good theme, even if they are wrapped up in romance.
I find I love to write, so for me there’s little question of ‘making’ myself sit and set a routine. When I come home from work and am done with dinner, etc, I get down to it. It’s as simple as that. And when I can’t, well, it’s no sweat really, because I‘m not writing to a deadline. I write because it gives me immense pleasure to do so. Ideas come from anywhere. It could be what someone has said or a line in the paper or something that has happened. The challenge is to keep the pace and not allow it to flag. Sometimes the dialogues don’t come out right or are plain boring. What is really weird is when the characters run away from you and take the story to a place you had not intended. Bringing them back is not always possible and so you give in and go with them.
A bigger problem is when the entire story is in your head, but when you start to key it in, it just doesn’t come out right. That is really frustrating, which is what is happening with the current one I’m working on. What has helped me is a tip I got from James Patterson in an interview. He says he writes an outline and keeps adding to it. So much that sometimes that is the story. And do you know – that’s what I’ve been doing with this troublesome one – just adding to the outline. It’s helpful to read about how others get over similar problems. You never know what might work for you. Writing an unrelated sequence also helps me get the block out of a particular place.
Getting genuine feedback is welcome. I may not agree with it, but like the discussion it generates. Getting comments from beta readers is a necessity. It should, however, to my mind at least, be from people of a similar background so that they grasp the nuances. To a western reader, for instance, a chauvinistic male protagonist may be abhorrent, but is the reality in India. Interfering parents or having to hide a romance from family is something an Indian will connect with immediately, less so someone who is used to different cultural mores. What I can’t get a handle on is the marketing. A necessary evil I know, but it cuts into my writing time. There’s only so much I can do in the evening if I’m at home and I’d rather it was writing.
A query readers often have is about how much of the self there is in the books. Well, this is a tricky one. Since I’ve written the stories, I’m all over on every page wouldn’t you say? Do I take from reality? Yes. I do all the time. But it would be little bits from here and there that would come together to make this character or that situation. For example, I tried to describe a friend’s features once, but I’m sure she wouldn’t recognize herself in my character because the hair was different, the personality was different, her reactions, etc. were all unique. Besides, character traits and emotions are universally the same. So more of this and less of that, and in all different combinations reacting to situations is what writing fiction is all about, I guess.