TUMBY BAY - I’ve got a host of friends and acquaintances who don’t wholly exist. They all live just shy of the cusp of reality.
Most of them are amalgams and constructs. They contain a good bit of me, elements of people I have known or read about and a fair slab of pure imagination. In short, they are the characters in the stories I write.
This doesn’t make them any less real in my mind.
I may have cobbled them together from disparate sources but once assembled they have settled into my consciousness in much the same way as all the living and breathing people I have known.
If I met one of them in the street I’m sure I wouldn’t be surprised. I would ask them what they had been up to and invite them for a coffee.
I would ask them where they had been, what they had done and what they planned to do in the future.
Just because I created them doesn’t mean I know all about them. From the moment of creation they took on a life of their own and I lost all control over them.
In the stories I wrote about them I only acted as a guide. In many cases I simple followed and wrote down what happened.
Every single one of them acted with an independent mind. More often than not what they did surprised me as much as anyone else.
Sometimes I forget that they are creations and not real people. Sometimes I forget that the things they did, their ups and their downs, didn’t actually happen.
The world of a writer’s imagination is a magical place. A place where all sorts of crazy things can occur.
A writer’s mind can make the most improbable dream, or the most horrific nightmare, seem commonplace.
On the other side of the looking glass, time can be bent and turned back on itself. The physically impossible can become commonplace. Strange worlds inhabited by fantastic creatures can coalesce. Death can be cheated and life can bloom in unexpected and strange ways.
Did I really create these people and creatures, or did I simply stumble across them? Were they already there patiently waiting for me to find them? And if they were, where were they waiting?
How did their world become my world? And more to the point, how did that happen in the first place?
Was there some sort of preordained purpose in their appearance? Are they messengers bearing mysterious truths? What compelled me to seek them out?
That last question is probably one that writers down the ages have constantly asked themselves. It is one that reaps as many answers as there are stories.
Why did I write that novel, why did I write that short story, why did I write that poem, why did I write that essay?
Why did I think it was necessary for people to know what I had to say?
Those are questions that lie beyond the purely artistic endeavour, beyond the simple joys of stringing words together for pleasing and dramatic effect.
It is the question that readers ask as they emerge from the cocoon of words that the writer has wrapped around them.
Why was the writer trying to make me smile, why was the writer trying to shock me, why was the writer trying to make me feel so sad? What was it that the writer was trying to tell me?
Little do they know that the writer may not know the answer to those questions either. Little do they know that writers are guided by the denizens of their imaginations.
Little do they know that the message, if in fact there is one, often also comes as a surprise to the writer.