Transiently real fiction


The Walls by Mayank Chhaya

Writing fiction is like dreaming on paper (Or dreaming digitally these days). However, unlike dreams, which dwell an evanescent realm, fiction can be made more permanent by putting it down in a tangible world.

Having been a storyteller since age 9, I have a fair sense of what it means to be invested in your characters to the extent that they become partly real. I say partly because while they have no flesh and blood, their fictional existence have the ability to affect you emotionally.

As I race to finish ghost writing a novella for someone I find that that particular world has become partly real for the time being. The other day, for instance, as I was describing the motivations of a certain character, I was also thinking of another major player, who has a direct impact on the first character’s life, might react. It was as if within that fiction world, these two characters became real in so much as it meant how their personal gravity affected each other.

It is a weird feeling because although one knows it is utterly nonexistent, its emotional implications can be verifiably existent. I am reminded of my lifelong motion sickness. I wrote about this on December 30, 2012. It bears repeating because it makes the point I am making here.

I am convinced now, after having studied it for over 40 years, that motion sickness does not necessarily require actual motion. Even an illusion of motion can cause it. For instance, last evening while watching a striking documentary titled  ‘Japan Tsunami: Tales of Terror’ I began to feel particularly queasy.

The documentary draws a great deal of its footage from scenes shot by the people of Japan using their camcorders and cell phone cameras in the midst of the unfolding disaster. Most of the visuals were jerky and even frenzied. Or, in other words, full of unanticipated movement for my brain and body.

It is not for the first time that visual stimulation of this kind has triggered motion sickness in me. That is one of the reasons why I do not particularly relish movies or documentaries shot with handheld or shoulder-mounted cameras.

Of course, I have experienced intense motion sickness in all the situations which are classically supposed to cause it such as a moving bus or a car. Mountain rides as a car or bus passenger are a total nightmare. Strangely though, nothing happens if I am driving or when I am flying or I am on a rollercoaster ride. That may have something to do with the fact as a driver my body anticipates the movement since I am in charge of it and deals with it differently from the way it would if I were a passenger.

Half an hour into the tsunami documentary and I was a total wreck, feeling quite like the debris of broken homes and overturned boats floating in swirly waters. I had to switch it off and take an antacid to calm my stomach.

The point is the movement that I felt while watching that documentary was not real for me in the sense that I was not physically involved in it. It was obvious that my brain interpreted that as real movement and signaled my body to feel accordingly, namely nauseous.

What is going on as I finish the novella is fairly similar. Of course, my brain also knows that it is not real and yet it is processing the fictional life in the novella as real and hence my reactions are real.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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