The Identity Guide: Forbidden Love By: Ramneek Dimen FIRST ASSIGNMENT: Story Statement It is up to Raina to transcend religious and cultural barriers to discover who she truly is, even if it is met with severe disapproval from her traditional Indian family, and distinctly different from that of her Western peers. SECOND ASSIGNMENT: in 200 words or less, sketch the antagonist or antagonistic force in your story. Keep in mind their goals, their background, and the ways they react to the world about them. This is a coming-of-age story of a young teenage girl named Raina, as she struggles to balance her conflicting identities as an Indian Canadian Punjabi-Sikh teenager entering her first year of university. She was raised by her traditional Sikh family but socialized by her liberal Western peers. Raina is constantly finding herself at odds in both of her worlds, questioning her place within each community. She tries to battle the voices in her head of her mother telling her what is right or wrong, as well as the expectations of her peers who also have their own convictions of what they view to be ‘normal’ teenage behaviour. Raina has mastered the art of concealing her identity so much so that her own needs and wants to have become foreign to herself, and she struggles to cope with her reality. She acts on what she believes is expected of her in each of these worlds afraid to confront the reality that she may be letting herself down in the process. THIRD ASSIGNMENT: create a breakout title (list several options, not more than three, and revisit to edit as needed). “The Identity Guide: Forbidden Love” “Taboo Love” “What Happens When Love and Culture Collide.” FOURTH ASSIGNMENT: - Read this NWOE article on comparables then return here. - Develop two smart comparables for your novel. This is a good opportunity to immerse yourself in your chosen genre. Who compares to you? And why? The Identity Guide is where Balli Kaur Jaswal's 'Erotic Love Stories for Punjabi Widows' meets S.K.Ali’s “Love from A to Z”. It contains the dichotomy of modern verses traditional value systems from Jaswal's novel, with the complexities of young love, and internal identity conflicts contained within “Love from A to Z.” While these two comparables share certain elements with my novel,“The Identity Guide” is completely unique in one monumental and plot-altering way; this novel is about the religious and cultural complexities that alienate cultures and, at times, outright forbid intersectionality between religions. This novel tells a tale of a forbidden first love involving two vastly different cultures and religions. Raina and Reggie both come from very traditional families that refuse to accept the connection that bond these individuals, which ultimately threatens to tear them apart before they have even formed their relationship. “The Identity Guide” tells a tale about one young woman’s pursuit of freedom and independence, with the looming fears of exile and the binding effects of tradition. Underlying all of this is the complex dynamics of family and society that mold Raina to question every aspect of her being. The idea of feeling tethered to two realities that are constructed by the views of our elders, our culture, and our society. But what happens when her two worlds don’t exist in isolation, but rather, are completely intertwined. She has been forced to methodically navigate and exist in these two dissimilar worlds. Presenting a different version of herself in each, so that she can seamlessly integrate, appeasing all parties involved. Well, almost all parties. Maybe not herself. Compromising a piece of herself each time she stepped in and out of these two worlds. Presenting the version of herself that has been crafted to meet the needs of someone else, someone else’s expectations. In this novel you observe Raina grappling with not knowing the difference between a noble act of rebellion or simply being self-righteous? Voluntary and involuntary exile. Observing her peers having the ability to exercise their right to choose without fear of punishment, and having no choice in the matter. FIFTH ASSIGNMENT: write your own hook line (logline) with conflict and core wound following the format above. Though you may not have one now, keep in mind this is a great developmental tool. In other words, you best begin focusing on this if you're serious about commercial publication. Hook line: A young, Indo-Canadian, girl learns that the balancing act between the identity she reserves for her family and the other for her friends was more precarious than she could ever imagine possible when her two worlds collide, and she is forced to face the stark reality that her identity can no longer be compartmentalized. Core wound: Raina is constantly finding herself at odds in both of her worlds, questioning her place within each community. She tries to battle the voices in her head of her mother telling her what is right or wrong, as well as the expectations of her peers who also have their own convictions of what they view to be ‘normal’ teenage behaviour. At the core of her issues is her inherent lack of self-awareness or identity. She often feels pushed and pulled by bits and pieces of both her worlds, and she is unable to decipher where she truly stands in either one. Primary conflict: This story is told from the perspective of each of the main and peripheral characters in the book, so the reader is given a well-rounded perspective of the issues, conversations, and internal struggles that take place in the minds of the characters. The complexities that surround interracial and interfaith relationships are uncovered for the reader, with Raina and Reggie’s love connection being the primary dramatic conflict. That being said, there are many parties involved and each one brings a different perspective, so I think it’s important to tell this story not only from Raina’s perspective but from the perspective of Reggie, their parents, and their closest friends. Raina’s roommate, Almaz, is also a woman of colour that comes from a traditional family. So, while you see her character empathize, and at times, encourage Raina to be her authentic self, internally she, too, is struggling to come to terms with her own sexual identity. Tanvir is upset by Raina’s love interest because she is bound by her traditional values, that were passed down from her family and her upbringing in India. You see her severe response to Raina informing her that she has struck up an interest in Reggie, and her immediate visceral reaction is to condemn Raina, vocalize her disapproval in a state of anger, and the preceding fallout. Raina’s high school best friend, Poppy, doesn’t understand why Raina is so conflicted about wanting to date Reggie because her Western upbringing has influenced her more liberal views on dating, and her parents don’t have any limitations on inter-faith/cultural dating. Poppy’s inability to relate to Raina from a cultural perspective is a sore spot for their relationship, and often results in many conflicts throughout the novel. SIXTH ASSIGNMENT: sketch out the conditions for the inner conflict your protagonist will have. Why will they feel in turmoil? Conflicted? Anxious? Sketch out one hypothetical scenario in the story wherein this would be the case--consider the trigger and the reaction. Raina has mastered the art of concealing her identity so much so that her own needs and wants to have become foreign to herself, and she struggles to cope with her reality. While Raina engages in this daily balancing act between her friends and family, she often finds herself dreaming about the days of true independence to come when she is whisked away to university and free to be her authentic self. However, after entering her first year of university, she learns that the balancing act she thought she had left behind in high school will in fact prevail for as long as she resists coming to terms with her identity. Raina is forced to confront her identity struggle when she meets Reginald while studying in her university’s library. They have an instant, undeniable connection. But she must resist out of the fear of her parent's reaction and being disowned by her family. Reginald is a Catholic-Filipino boy that faces similar internal conflicts and identity struggles. Raina and Reginald itch closer and closer to building a romantic relationship but, out of the fear that their union would lead to the destruction of their families, they resist the temptation to enter into a relationship, and continue to deny their connection to themselves and to others. They both struggle to come to terms with their relationship, and Raina is faced with the stark reality that she can't escape who she is, and must instead confront her fears head on and accept the risk of potentially losing her friends and family in the process of finding herself. This story is told from the perspective of each of the main and peripheral characters in the book, so the reader is given a well-rounded perspective of the issues, conversations, and internal struggles that take place in the minds of the characters. The complexities that surround interracial and interfaith relationships are uncovered for the reader. There are many parties involved and each one brings a different perspective, so I think it’s important to tell this story not only from Raina’s perspective but from the perspective of Reginald, their parents, and their closest friends. FINAL ASSIGNMENT: sketch out your setting in detail. What makes it interesting enough, scene by scene, to allow for uniqueness and cinema in your narrative and story? Please don't simply repeat what you already have which may well be too quiet. You can change it. That's why you're here! Start now. Imagination is your best friend and be aggressive with it. The reader is introduced to the protagonist, Raina, on a late Wednesday evening in the Gurdwara. It is school night and Raina is in harmonia practice being scolded by instructor as she is off-key with the hymns. There aren’t many others present with her in class, however her mother is standing with her arms crossed at the back of the room with a glaring look of disappointment on her face. The instructor threatens to pull her out of the upcoming recital as he feels Raina is not ready for an audience. Raina’s mother is able to coax him into reconsidering and they agree to let Raina participate, but she will be seated in the back row so as not to distract from the other more talented students. Raina looks out into the dark hallways as her fate is being negotiated distracted by her thoughts about what her friends have planned this weekend. The setting of this story tethers between all aspects of Raina’s complex Indian and Western young adult world. The reader is immersed in both her home and social life, observing Raina in the hallways of her high school, spending time with her friends at her first high school party, and then eventually see her in her first year of university, in her residence, in class, and in the library. The reader is fully entrenched in Raina’s world the entire way through, as you weave effortlessly in and out of these settings. When the reader is introduced to Tanvir, Raina’s mother and one of the antagonists in this novel, you are taken to where she grew up, a small rural village in India. In this place you learn more about Tanvir, where her value systems stem, the culture, and environment that influenced her upbringing and shape her thinking. This story will take you back to your time in school, but you will experience it in a whole new light; through the eyes of all the different characters that shape Raina’s world. You will be able to relate to these highly complex and nuanced characters in some small or major ways, and you will be introduced to realities that exist outside the scope of your imagination, deepening your understanding of cultures or even people in your own lives.