I currently have two work-in-progress novels in play, and one of them uses a lot of storytelling to flesh out the themes for the main character. I’m trying to figure out if that’s a cop-out that takes away from what’s happening in the present/in “real time” or if it’s exactly what the story needs.
Because here’s the thing: I’m dealing with a lot of Hindu mythology, and it’s stuff that I know like the back of my hand, but my readers have no context for. And, similarly, I’ve built my main character as someone who needs major tutelage when it comes to her heritage. So, the way to educate both her and those who would potentially pick up this book is to have other characters tell her stories from our two great Sanskrit epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Oral tradition is a big part of how I know what I know. I read Amar Chitra Katha comic books as a kid and devoured C. Rajagopalachari’s translation of the Mahabharata, but it’s my mother’s stories that really steeped me in my culture. So, for me, it feels perfect natural to have stories be the avenue by which Tara (pronounced with a soft “th” sound) learns where she comes from.
Is that natural for readers, though? Is that interesting? Or is it more like, “Aw, man, I don’t care about the story of Savitri and Satyavan. Shut up.” Of course, that particular tale actually has some metaphorical resonance for my characters, as most of what I’m using does. But I guess I fear that the metaphors, the callbacks, are only going to make sense to me.