Non-fiction is extremely popular in India, and sometimes people ask me why I tend to blend so much fact into my fiction. Isn't that emulating non-fiction, they ask?
The novel and its style and purpose are a popular point of discussion amid the literati. Certainly, there can be two ways of approaching fiction. As writers we bring our being into our work, not just our emotional selves, but our complete identity and sum of experiences can inform our writing. There are books that map our inner world, and there are books that shine light on the world around us and how we interact with it. The first one focuses on blue sky thinking. The second forces the writer to absorb and research details around her, and then with lightness introduce those facts within the fictional narrative. The leaps of faith are allowed, of course. That is what imagination is for.
Many books that have endured the test of time skilfully weave the personal worlds of their characters with the world at large. Chekhov and Pushkin tell us as much about the emotions of their protagonists, as being a social-political commentary of a time of major change and upheaval. Chekhov captured the bourgeois existence of Russia, while Pushkin brought to life the courts and the farms. Fitzgerald, for all his moody and tempestuous characters, captured with authenticity a slice of life in the Jazz era. Amitav Ghosh captures with veracity, within the trope of fiction, the geography and history of the worlds he recreates. Dan Brown does copious research and blends information within a thriller.
Facts about history, geography, countries, politics, dynasties, industries find their way into stories. This form of narrative storytelling engages the minds of the reader and makes information more accessible and easier to understand. News is also moving towards this--creating stories that can then stick in our minds. Of course, authors fictionalise facts. That is the leeway you can take within a novel. But it does not take away from the authenticity of the world the author is trying to create.
Breach is a thrilling adventure for every reader. Yet it has a multi layered plot which weaves together the inner lives--the hopes and thwarted ambitions, the desire to fit in and be liked, complex attachments and fragile relationships, dreams and despair--of its cast of characters with very real world issues like cyber crime, cancer research, medical ethics and IP laws. It is at once rooted in the immediacy of our world, and in the timelessness of human emotion and motivation.
That, in essence, is what I wanted to write. A fun holiday read that would also challenge our intelligence; a fast, plot-driven story that could also leave us with questions. Within a thriller format, Breach can inform readers of the perils of the Internet to individuals and businesses. It can show us how the world of medical research operates.
Ultimately, a novel is about telling a story. In a way that engages our emotions, fires our imagination and makes the page and the people within it come alive in our minds. So what if facts and reality creep into fiction?