#1. Story Statement:
Shirin needs to break the generational pattern of abuse at the hands of narcissists through self-actualization and healing.
#2. Antagonist/Antagonistic Force
The antagonistic force here is a psychological one: Anti-social narcissism, defined by self-aggrandizement and a lack of empathy and remorse. Chris, the narcissistic husband that Shirin leaves, becomes the window through which she discovers and processes all the narcissists in her, her mother and grandmother’s lives. Daddy is the main antagonist of the entire story, he remains unnamed to reflect the pain and destruction he has inflicted.
He has been deemed special from his very genesis, being the first son to be born in multiple generations of a deeply patriarchal family, he is constantly given the message that others are meant to sacrifice for him because of his inherent superiority. He is able to attend the most prestigious schools and universities in his city, while his sisters are barely able to complete high school, he has the freedom to build a career and travel the world while his sisters never leave the city they were born in nor do they have any agency over the course of their own lives. When he gets married in his early thirties, he is already solidified in his belief of his exceptional value and judgements as a result of a complete lack of challenge and unrelenting effusive praise. He has no empathy because of his deeply entrenched belief that all of humanity exists only to serve him and his goals, and he has no remorse because in his self image all his actions are justified and the fault always lies with other inferior beings. Whenever he comes across a situation where his superiority is challenged, he becomes enraged and abandons jobs, blows up relationships and manipulates laws and social norms to his benefit.
#3. Title options
I am not your Toy
I belong in my own arms
I choose the unknown
Drops of Me
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
It illustrates how no culture is monolithic and just because women share an ethnic identity, it does not make them the same. The diversity of thought and complexity of relationships between women who are interconnected is something that I am focused on as well.
Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani
Addresses the ripple effects of the actions of one human, and also confronts uncomfortable and socially taboo topics with maturity and nuance. This is something I am working on as well.
#5. Hook line
Here are three options, I couldn’t decide between them:
Three generations of women who all end up with narcissistic men, but the youngest is working hard to break the cycle. Will she succeed?
As Shirin finally breaks free from her narcissistic abuser, she begins to unravel her lifelong conditioning from her father and grandfather, and begins a journey to heal all 3 generations of women. Will she get derailed by the toxic men she meets along the way? How will she reconcile the life she desires with the lifestyle she has been taught to aspire to?
Shirin’s life has been defined by the whims of narcissistic men and she has finally had enough. She embarks on a journey to free herself from their orbit, and struggles to keep them off her path. As she heals herself and the generations of women before her, she must work hard to resist the ever present lure of the narcissist.
#6. Inner conflict:
There are a couple of main reasons for inner conflict and turmoil for the main protagonist (Shirin):
She is torn between her desire for sexual exploration as she is bisexual and has a very high drive and the years of conditioning embedding in her a deep guilt about extra marital sex.
She constantly finds herself attracted to toxic men, who feel like ‘home’ due to the deep influence of her father. She knows better intellectually, but struggles to resist their pull, especially in times of stress.
She longs to live a life of freedom and nomadism, exploring different cultures and places, but she feels an inner admonishment pushing her to settle down and have the family life that her mom wants for her.
There are different settings for all 3 major characters in the novel: Malika, her daughter Faryal and her daughter Shirin. The point is that even though they all experience trauma in completely different settings, they have a shared source of resilience: their spirituality.
Malika’s story is set in the turmoil of the separation of India and birth of Pakistan, where her husband is being hunted as a revolutionary and they escape narrowly with their lives. She ends up in a tiny town in the Himalayas at the insistence of her husband and this isolation from her large family sinks her further and further into depression.
Faryal grows up in quite a bohemian way in this Himalayan town, as a result of a lack of parenting, and her life after marriage is set in the overwhelming city of Karachi, in stark contrast to her childhood. She is eventually moved to Dubai, where she experiences a greater degree of freedom and builds enough confidence to give her daughter a life that she hopes will provide more options.
Shirin’s life is almost placeless, she bounces around between cities and countries fluidly, valuing the collection of unique experiences above all. She lives in Dubai, Karachi and Europe and also the coastal cities of the US, but no matter where she goes, her desire for community and connection remains paramount. Her dissociation with a geographical sense of home makes it easier for her to understand and chart the connections between the lives of the three women, and draw both warnings and inspiration for her own future.