Saat Phere

by wjw on June 16, 2007

So I’m embarked on the new novel, most of which so far consists of a description of an elaborate Hindu wedding taking place in Bangalore. For background I’ve been taking advantage of numerous Hindu wedding sites available on the net, as well as reminiscences by Steve Stirling (who— through sheer coincidence— happened to attend a Hindu wedding in Bangalore last month).

The short form: they really do all that Bollywood stuff at the weddings. The women of one family dance for the women of the other family, then the women of the other family dance for the women of the first family, then the women get to dance with the guys. And they do a lot of singing, too.

I’ve been having a terrific time at the wedding, describing all the elaborate ceremonies with all their color and vivacity, and my character’s reaction to them. It was when I was transcribing the chants in their original Sanskrit that I began to wonder, Is this too much damn detail? Which was followed, naturally enough, by the question, Am I obsessing about the wedding because I’m too uncertain about the chapters that follow?

Dark thoughts ensued.

But here’s a lesson for the new writer: when you start filling your narrative with a lot of cool, intricate, colorful detail, you have to ask yourself why. Is this actually relevant to the story that you’re telling? And if not, why is it there? Because it’s cool can be a valid answer, but only if it really is show-stoppingly cool.

In my case, there are reasons why Bangalore and why the wedding, but they’re not major plot reasons, they’re background reasons. (The wedding isn’t a part of this story, it’s a part of the previous story, which I’m not telling. So it’s a way of not having to write the prequel.)

But anyway: the wedding is cool enough, but only just. So in the pages that follow, I’m going to ease off on the wedding descriptions and start jumping into the plot.

Foxessa June 16, 2007 at 7:35 pm

I always have too much information, too many details, when starting out.

As one continues, the info and the details disappear, though not infrequently re-appearing elsewhere in the text, where info and detail actually belong.

Love, C.

Kelly June 16, 2007 at 8:24 pm

For my taste you (meaning you specifically, and almost no other writer) can’t provide too much detail. I’m going to eat this wedding stuff up with a spoon.

Karen June 17, 2007 at 6:17 pm

You should watch the mother of all Bollywood wedding films, Hum Aapke Hain Koun. Transcendently saccharine.

Don’t forget to comment on the saris of the female participants. Bangalore silks, Kanjeevarum silks, Banarasi silk brocades … see for examples.

dubjay June 18, 2007 at 1:13 am

Kelly: thanks for the compliment. When you come to the elephant, know that it’s a tip of the hat specially to you.

Karen: thanks for the movie rec. It’s in my Netflix list.

Thanks also for the sari stuff. I already have a sari subplot, so this will be the topping on the ice cream, so to speak.

Scott June 18, 2007 at 2:18 pm

Being a fan of Bollywood films, I, too, look forward to reading your take on it.

And when you’re done, return to Gareth and Caroline. 🙂 I hope the series has sold well enough for there to be more!

Scott June 18, 2007 at 2:20 pm

Oh, and check out Monsoon Wedding if you already haven’t. It’s the rare Bollywood film in English.

halojones-fan June 19, 2007 at 3:54 am

“But anyway: the wedding is cool enough, but only just. So in the pages that follow, I’m going to ease off on the wedding descriptions and start jumping into the plot.”

Good idea. Because otherwise, you’d turn into Neal Stephenson. And we already have one of those.

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