Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Picking characters for “Burning for Freedom”

“My books are primarily plot driven but the best plot in the world is useless if you don’t populate them with characters that readers can care about.”

-         Jeffrey Deaver


Hi, Everyone! As a reader, I have often wondered how authors pick characters, how they develop them etc. And now when I find myself on the other side, I realized I had specific but quite unexpected reasons for whom I highlighted or dropped from my novel.

I never forgot the main critieria: space limitation. I was determined to keep the number of pages as close to 350 as possible. Too many pages and it would put readers off; too little and I couldn’t do justice.

As any character would have to be given some space in the book to explain his/her background and details, so I was quite ruthless in axing many of them.

One such potential character was a child for Keshu and Lakshmi. I spent hours thinking over this. I kept in mind that I intend to write on Savarkar in Ratnagiri and Keshu and his family will naturally be featured there, too. Any decision would affect that story.

So at first I had intended to give them a son, I had even picked the name. I intended to style him along the character of my youngest (a lovable, irrepressible, happy soul.) I had even ended my Part I with it.

But I was so jealously guarding my space, especially after I learned that it would affect the selling price of the book, that I had to regretfully let go of that plan. I intend to have the character in my Savarkar in R. story, just not as Keshu’s son.

I decided not to make any mention of Savarkar’s associates in the London days, too. Impossible to fit them into a few lines, not to mention the research hours it would have increased.

On the other hand, I was so-o-o taken by Shantabai, Savarkar’s brother Narayan Rao’s wife! Her biography was engrossing. No thought of space restrictions came into my mind when it came to her scenes. She deserved the spotlight. I do believe her scenes add a good flavor to the story. I have been asked if her “Queen of Jhansi” like avatar in the last scenes was my imagination.

It most definitely wasn’t! I have followed her biography faithfully in describing the scene. She definitely is a woman to be very much admired!

There were three reasons I didn’t stint on space for the Yesuvahini scenes:

·     Savarkar admired her tremendously.

·     Shreerang, to whom my novel is dedicated, also admired her a lot.

·     I thought it necessary that the reader get to know the young Savarkar and the hardships his family had suffered.

Some of her notes on Savarkar are preserved in a diary. One of these days I shall post on it.

The one person I really, really regret not being able to feature is Appa Kasar. He was Savarkar’s devoted bodyguard. He was tortured in order to squeeze statements implicating Savarkar out of him in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination. He is my inspiration to cast Keshu in this role.

Keshu’s mother Mohini, the poor dear, really suffered at my hands. What a sad life I have given her. A widow’s lot was difficult enough as it is! From the very beginning, though, I was quite decided upon her life: an intercaste marriage; young pregnant widow; an affair with her brother-in-law; and death. Her death was absolutely essential, for with that Keshu’s dual life could end.

Her death scene used to float around my mind even before I started writing the Andaman scenes. It was very uncomfortable and disturbing, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

I was so worried that I would not be convincing in that scene. But I have been assured by those who have read my book, that it is a chilling, chilling scene.


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