Fiction is defined in part or in whole as something made up by the author, but we are always told to write what we know, to research and experience, and to get inside the heads of our characters. The closer to reality we make it, the more weight fiction can carry to the casual observer…like some kind of literary God Particle.
I’m not trying to pin every Roddenberry alien on a Cold War era culture, or every bumbling, fated-to-blow-up villain as someone’s high-school nemesis whose debt of comeuppance was never realized in reality…but I’m also not arguing with those who see a downtrodden normal kid instead of the Boy Who Lived, nor a sexually frustrated and bored every-woman instead of a chick who fucks sparkly vampire metaphors.
Imagine Fiction created in a vacuum. How wonderful and alien it must be! Colours and abstract heartstrings and fevered dreams replace your antagonist, while the setting could range from the coca-cola-ruddy heartbeat when you close your eyes tightly after a kiss, or the extruding jungle of a sick stomach or itch. You’d sell to a select group of pretentious meat-Muppets sitting around their overpriced Caffe’ Americanoes who would pretend to understand any of it while using it as ammo to call anything else a sold-out show…and maybe a handful of people who could cherish it for the pure work of art it was. The good news, for those hoping to save a little cheddar from their efforts, is that a lot of great authors know how to combine these artsy moments with the more mundane. Maybe there’s hope for my manuscript of ’50 Shades of Murple’ after all.
But again, it is because we can assign meaning to patterns, label systems, and push relevant values upon irrelevant ideas that makes this Higgs Boson of words work so predictably. Like the elusive hypothetical super-MacGuffin, this meaning isn’t so much assigned as it is ever-present at a value of non-zero.
Words. Carry. Weight.
Well-considered words have all the weight of a freight train, the resilience of titanium and the beauty of the most skillful illumination. Accidental cold-snaps of hateful phrases can end life-long loves or sunder treasured things into rubble. The subtle sting of sarcasm can render the world’s mightiest speech a farce of its own greatness while tact can season a hearty ‘Fuck Off‘ and have people lined up for seconds and thirds.
I wonder, though, how much of this weight is accidental. As certain as a hammer sees ever problem as a nail and every conspiracy nut sees lizardmen in the uncanny skinsuits worn by their elected officials, will a writer see every word as a deliberate action? Does a loved one’s verbal cold shoulder mean cooling passions, or an ill-timed Maybe retract a lifetime of certainty?
Deep down I think the trumpet of common sense makes most understand that these shifts and slights aren’t always meant and thus the mass comes more from within the audience than it did the performer – but it is no less real than the verbal nard-kick or accidental friendly seduction that gets so many of us in so much trouble. We are strange creatures indeed – seeing meaning in what could be someone’s 2015 Thesaurus-Entry-A-Day ™ entry, while stumbling over the simple joys of short, simple and pure speech.
This year, one of my resolutions is to throw this fundamental mass around with greater precision and remember that the echo between Reality and Fiction is duplex. It may be the best defense against the slings and arrows of the world to remember that slings and arrows are as easily edited out in the director’s cut or neutered in the author’s notes.
Maybe one won’t need to forgive so many sins when a noticeable percentage of them are just the ambient mass of the universe. And even if the sins and slings are real…wouldn’t it be nice to have a logical innocence when standing before the assault?
Let’s hope so, because the people I know write and say some vicious, vile shit sometimes.
=- Studio Shinnyo 2015. Khattam-Shud, EOF.Posted under Manifestoes