Fictional Police Make a Fictitious Arrest

In GTA5 A fictional criminal is questioned by a fictional police officer in a fictional city, and gets real world backlash.

There are people, believe it or not, who believe that fictional characters and events need to be brought to justice in the real world. How I wish this was a straw man argument (we’ll get to Oz later). They want to bring authors like Agatha Christie to trial because these terrible (some would say terribly talented) authors dare write about murder, politics, or assault in its many forms. (Despite Mz Christie dying in 1976 – this somehow does not register).

The premise of bringing fictional characters to trial sounds like something from a dystopian horror novel, but it is indeed a real, though luckily rare, phenomenon, at least in so-called civilized places.

You’ve probably heard about those crazies who stalk actors because they believe the characters they portray are real, or spew hate speech because they believe the actors endorse the actions they portray in movies. Or that all successful people in the world are part of a singular conspiracy that is a sign of impending doom for planet earth.

They want nothing less than to end fiction.

I wonder how the end of fiction would play out? A squad of fictional detectives trouncing around imaginary landscapes to arrest fictional characters. “Take that King downtown, officer, for he doth murdered his brother.” …and off to Verona… “Verily I’m placing you under arrest, Lord Romeo, for the indecent assault of a minor”… then a quick spin in Dexter or Hannibal – “Will you look at all these bodies, chief, what sick mind would…?” and Oz, “Come with me, you wicked witch, because your author is under arrest for allowing a young girl to travel unaccompanied with strangers and you are witness in the trial.” I wonder what crimes all the characters in Alice in Wonderland or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would be accused of.

Well, if certain activists get their way, authors may be brought to trial for fictional crimes in the near future. If that happens we’ll be in a bad place indeed. Bat-crazy country. It will make government censorship look like a French farce.

As authors we sometimes think we are immune to psychopathic absurdity because we are by our very act of writing able to separate reality and fiction into two neat heaps.

The idea of the Thought Police is nothing knew — we know it from George Orwell’s iconic 1984, where people are required to not only behave according to the authority’s ever-changing whims, but think the correct thoughts too. Correct according to those in power, of course, as coincidence would always have it. Cults use this to indoctrinate their victims, though no person who was ever successfully indoctrinated knew that they were.
And that’s the crux. Controlling the thoughts of another is a desperate attempt at grabbing power over them.

As a writer I am sensitive to the events in my novels, some are dark and some are funny, but I can separate the fiction from reality. I hope never to Write What People Want, but to write fiction that asks questions. Fiction is an opinion. Opinions change, grow, and sometimes they pass through strange places before arriving home.

For some, reality and fiction are intertwined in a conspiratorial mashup that feels as real to them as the screen you’re reading from now – you’ll often find that people who believe one fiction believe in all of them. UFO’s in the same world as Dragons, Illuminati and Lizard people. And when an author writes about characters that feature in conspiracies (a double whammy) they believe the events are real, even though the writer is telling a story no less fantastical than Peter Rabbit or The Wind in the Willows.
Without the ability to confront the fictitious character they often resort to confronting the writer. (As Lionel Shriver found out after being attacked by an ‘activist’ saying that she was not permitted to write about things that were not wholey about white women)

What books would be struck from the shelves because their characters broke the law? Fight Club. 1984. Every Louis L’Amour book. Every Tom Clancy or James Patterson book. The Bell Jar. The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Juno. Lolita. Romeo and Juliet, all of Shakespeare’s works, actually, Game of Thrones most certainly. Most medieval tales. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There’d be almost nothing left except for tales of mild personal corporate struggle in a corporate world of obedience. Nice, quiet books where the protagonist wants nothing more than to make his master more money, with no crimes, no extra-marital affairs, and little to jiggle the senses.

And what about writing about the crimes in other books… or writing about the writing about the…? That too would also be a crime, since withholding criminal evidence is criminal in itself. Increasingly journalists are being attacked merely for reporting the news.

It does give me an idea for a short story, one where all the characters in other books are rounded up and brought to justice. The fictional cops would have a busy time on their hands – every murder mystery, every story about abusive parents, or forbidden love in the wrong religion, all brought into the justice system for a rake over the coals of judgment. I wonder what the fictitious penalty for killing a fictional character would be, Ms Christie?

I say let the fictional victims come forward and speak.

Trialogue

You’ve probably heard the phrase “said is dead.” I don’t think it is dead, but you should be cautious of overusing ‘he said’ for no reason.

You should attribute who said what for only 2 reasons
1. The reader would be confused about who is talking
2. It advances our knowledge of the plot or character

If I write a regular dialogue, which I define as two people talking, it becomes pretty obvious who is talking, especially if the characters are well developed.

When there is Trialogue, which is what I call a verbal threesome, things are naturally more complicated and so reminding the reader who is talking makes perfect sense and peppering with the occasional said will clear up any confusion.

I try to separate dialogue attribution and plot or character development attribution because they can step on each others’ toes.

New writers tend to have their characters grinning at each other a lot –

“I’m going to go now,” Edgar said as he stood up and grinned at Caroline.

The attribution doesn’t advance the plot and is too simplistic, the action also doesn’t echo the dialogue. Don’t give away important details with mere dialogue attribution. I might change that to something slightly more interesting …

“I’m leaving.” Edgar’s voice echoed down the hall, but he gave Caroline a reassuring smile when he saw the look in her eyes.

Here we’ve learned something about both Caroline and Edward, Caroline has a crush on Edward (at least according to Edward), and also that Edward is sensitive to her crush. I don’t need to tell the reader that Edgar is talking because the context of the surrounding text makes it obvious.

I could add a lot more flowers, I guess, to further illustrate how Edgar’s words affected Caroline, but I think echoed is just enough. It won’t go down in history as the all-time best sentence ever, but it moves and reveals in one swoop.

Trope on a Rope

Yeah, everyone hates tropes, right? I don’t mean literary tropes like allegory and simile, but the StereoType Trope — The cool dumb guy with the Harley, the awkward girl who comes out of her shell to discover she is great at something, the fat computer nerd who always gets bullied but is able to win the pretty girl by listening to her heart… we see them in a million books and movies and yet… we still see them.

Like favourite snacks book Tropes are old favourites, an old pair of slippers that wouldn’t feel the same if they were imported from China, shrink-wrapped in the low-cal low-sodium soy diversity of zero offence.

If a character doesn’t offend anyone they are probably not worth reading about because they never defended anything important. Or is that a trope too? The edgy writer trying to be cool and do his own thing to win the minds of the public and thus make more sales… yet secretly likes kittens and gardening… or are we all tropes?

Really, how unique are we? We all wear clothes, we all listen to music even if we claim the subtleties are different, we all have access to similar information… aren’t stereotypes and tropes useful lenses to define ourselves and characters in books?

Maybe what we think is a trope is only our interpretation of the character. Maybe the dumb cool guy with a Harley also doesn’t understand why people think the world is round, maybe he doesn’t have any gay black female friends and this makes him who he chooses to be not what is expected of him. Perhaps when awkward girl hit that kid with her car it would leave a scar on her that underlines every relationship she will have. You see, tropes are a container for a more complex palette. Fat nerd is like Prussian Blue, you mix it with other tropes or colours in infinite combinations and create something that contains the original colour, but is also new and interesting. Or maybe a mess, depends on your strokes. Or maybe a mess is abstract expressionism, depends how you look at it.

I think tropes are a good place to write from because they mean you have to understand a character and find out what makes them identifiable, not only what makes them unique. A character who is truly unique can only be an outcast, an outlier, and that is also a trope.

Abstract Writing

We have abstract art, abstract jazz, and abstract interpretive dance… but we don’t have abstract writing. No one can teach it and maintain a serious facial expression.

How would abstract prose work? Would it be complete strokes of words, or parts of words?
A portrait, even an expressionist portrait, is made of shapes like noses and eyes, but a purely abstract painting looks like nothing other than paint. So abstract writing might look like nothing other than letters.

alf aosdfjasdfjh e!wof o0qpeqpwfj a?lksdjfjlas dlfjasmnasdfn asdf

A perfect abstract piece of writing. Isn’t it brilliant? It may be a wonderful piece of million-dollar writing, or my tumblr password, who knows? But I think it is worth money and will send it to an agent and wait for my paycheck.

Of course we have many rules in writing. Show, don’t tell, use the correct spelling, write forwards not backwards, etc. We never ask who made the rules, though, and why we have to adhere to them if there are no consequences other than being ignored.

I’m going to try an experiment one day – write a piece of prose without worrying about any rules and see if I gain anything from it. Perhaps it is the tight bounds of the rules that make writing readable.

Pecan edit passive ocean tribe . Tumult green succulence ash. Garbled trouble brain dream. You know what I mean.

Artificial Intelligence can now synthesize seemingly coherent sentences. Here’s the output from a little program I wrote, a little Bayesian Classifier that takes as input a famous novel (Like Sugar Crash) and outputs new sentences in the same style.

“His physical cloth making some of flapjack and fat I am not .
“She should have an alpha inside, someone physically perfect, to her friend responded, clearly an expert on my hair, she wants me to her psychological scars like she was secretly from his physical cloth making some of flapjack and fat I am not . I was secretly from me to her psychological scars like she was wasted in Kobal street . I am not . I am light as she was secretly from me to her psychological scars like that I’m pretty fucking close to be like .

Pretty fucking computer generated, but pretty fucking cool too. A computer writing about stuff in my style, such that it is. I think that’s what abstract is, not complete randomness, but a stitching together of rules instead of meaning.

The Reader Did It or “The Impossible Book”

For a long time now I’ve been juggling a handful of sketches for a book idea – one where the reader is the killer. Not the narrator, but the reader.

I’ve long thought the narrator is a separate character, a disassociated voice, with their own personality and quirks. Sometimes they get the details wrong (the unreliable narrator), or just plain lie, but usually they have some insight into the characters thoughts. However voiced, the narrator remains inside the book. Close the cover and the voice is dead sleeping Dormant.

But what if we break that supposedly immutable fourth wall and bring the narrator into the plot? This is done brilliantly in The NeverEnding Story… where our charmingly un-plucky young hero discovers the book he is reading is about himself. This was magnificently published in a book that felt just like the one described in the book itself, with an embossed front cover, and red and green text. A story that went on forever, in time and vertical space.

 

 

But what if you, the reader, are the killer? How do I, the narrator, talk to you, the reader? First Person point of view comes to mind, but FPV can still take on the idea of a third person. In Fight Club the first person POV is still undeniably someone else.

I am John’s ponderous medulla.

There are some things we all share. You’ve probably seen those Horoscope debunking videos where everyone is given the same horoscope and told that it has been created especially for them. Lo-and-behold everyone is surprised to learn we share traits we think are unique.

Perhaps you, being a person nearish your thirties, have many Facebook friends but only a few you can trust, are a little perverted. Not anything you’d want to share with your friends or family, but nothing you’d tell your partner either. You are not so easily fooled by horoscopes, perhaps you are, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been a very naughty boy girl person. I’m not going to get into gender identity of a murderous reader, that’s an entirely different kind of story, but I will need to know things about you, like what TV programs you like (Friends, Cosmos, maybe HIMYM).

In short, for you to be the killer you need to know that I know that you’ve been thinking about killing your boss. (Good lucking untangling that one!)
Boss because it is probably the only universal murderous fantasy people share (I am my own boss so we won’t get into that).

So you did it, now I, the narrator, have to figure out how you did it, and how it was done. I’m hot on the trail, you’ll have to turn the page to find out if I catch you.

Thumb Wars

All across the world people are in a vicious thumb war for your mind. That’s right, social media polarizes your nation and your world. Pick any viewpoint and half the population wants to kill you, regardless of facts, statistics, or history. People will claim their viewpoint is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Ronald Reagan had Star Wars, Donald Trump has Thumb Wars.

Writing is also a battle for your mind. I’m constantly battling my thumbs, they work at different speeds to my thoughts, and they often type what I don’t mean. They speak a different language than mine.
Sometimes I can just let my thumbs go ahead and do what they want while I sit back and drink coffee, when they’re done I’ll read over the words and try to turn the thumbed out sketch into something coherent, a painting with color and texture.

But writing is a battle for your thoughts. How do I tell the story that I need to tell you and also keep your attention long enough to share my story? One way is to make you care about the characters and what they’re trying to do. Another is to create an impending dread, to trigger something primal that causes you to turn the page. These are all tricks, but sometimes they are necessary to get you to read the next page.

One two three four I declare a thumb war! And we’re off, me vs your attention.