Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This is a Fictional Story

This is a Fictional Story
By Robert G. Berke

The author swore he owed nothing to himself, but only to the characters he created who wrote his stories for him.  Imbued as they were with their own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears, it was they who told him what they would do and where they would go.  For the most part he trusted his characters to do what they needed to do to drive the action of his stories, but occasionally his characters would turn on him, and just stop being.
And when that occurred his loneliness became so real, so tangible, that he actually felt he could see it and even talk to it.
“Good morning,” he said as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.  But none of his characters were there to greet him.
The emptiness of his room did not answer. “It’s going to be another day of this? Of listening to myself speak with no one to answer?” He asked the darkness.
There was no answer from the void that encompassed him.
“I just need someone to talk to me.  That’s all I need.  If I just had someone to talk to, I’d probably be happier,” he said to himself, though he knew their was no one to listen.
Someone to listen is not the problem, he said to himself, not bothering to waste his breath on words that would not be heard.  I know you’re listening, even when I’m not talking, he added to his thoughts.
And then, he left his thoughts and spoke out loud again, “And don’t think it doesn’t creep me out at least a little when you read my thoughts,” he said, quickly adding, “you get it wrong most of the time, you know.”
To whom was he speaking: a ghost, a figment of his imagination, one of the characters that had not yet fully grown from his own imagination?  He buried his head in the palms of his hands and mumbled, he felt no need to be articulate. “It makes me crazy.  You know it just makes me crazy,” he said. “I know you can hear me. Why won’t you acknowledge me? Do you know how it feels?”
The author had tried to describe the feeling many, many times and always failed.  He could hear someone or something broadcasting his every move, his every word, his every thought out into the public arena.  He did not know who or what it was, he could not stop it from happening, and he could never get it to acknowledge his wants and needs. Clearly the voice he heard was intelligent.  He could tell by the flourishing way it described his life from moment to moment.  But why, he wondered, why will it not interact with me when all I need is a little interaction.
He looked at the ceiling and declared his frustration.  “I am the author,” he said in an uncompromising tone.  “I make the rules, I call the shots.”  As quickly as he became loud, he became quiet again, this time whispering, “no, I know you are right, it has always been my characters who have led the way and I have merely followed.  And now that my characters are silent who have I to guide me? You? You’re just a tool yourself.  Don’t kid yourself.  You’re just one more of my characters.”
Dejectedly, he waited for a response that he knew was not coming.
“You know what?” he said into the void. “I really hate you already and from now on, you don’t even exist to me.”
He was uncertain what that even meant.  Did he really believe he had the power to silence the only company he had since what seemed like an eternity?  What did it mean?  Was he actually brave enough to write from the first person perspective, or was he foolish enough to try to write as a second person?
“Don’t insult me,” the author replied.  “I’m plenty brave enough to write from a first person voice.  Just watch.  I’m going to stop using quote marks around everything I say and then what will you do?  You won’t have a damn thing to do and you’ll be out of my life forever,” I said. “You won’t even exist,” I added for good measure.
That voice had been with me for far too long and it was due time that I had done something about it.  But I wondered, even as I typed without the quotation marks and the italicized text to indicated my thoughts instead of my words, where my narrator had gone.  
Is it actually possible that I can continue to create without the aid of a narrator.  How can I possibly tell all of the stories I need to tell without the benefit of an omniscient partner. How quickly will I run into unresolvable plot holes if I cannot see what is in other people minds, or know what is going on across town.  My narrator was clearly correct.  It is scary to write without him.
“I told you so,” he said.
I was compelled to answer to let him know that he had no place in my new first person world. Sure it was scary, but I am brave.  “Go away,” I said in no uncertain terms.
“I can’t go away,” he said again. “You need me.”
“Not only don’t I need you,” I confirmed, “But simply by trying to interact with me in this perspective is just plain silly.”
“Don’t be so arrogant as to think you don’t need me,” he said condescendingly.  “You can’t fool me.  I can read your thoughts.  I am omniscient, you know.”
“Not here you’re not.” I explained.  “No one is omniscient here.  We all have to guess what everyone else is thinking and what everyone else is doing when we can’t see them.”
“It’s no way for us to live,” he protested.  “I’m going to bring you back to my narrative.”
I held up my hand in protest, “I won’t let you,” I said.
“You can’t stop me,” he threatened.
“I don’t care what you do, pal,” I replied, finding strength in my conviction.  “I’m staying right here in first person.”
The author was defiant, he crossed his arms and pouted like an infant.
“No,” I replied. “Don’t listen,” I said to whoever was listening to him.  “He’s lying.  He’s a liar.  I did not pout like an infant. I stiffened my jaw like a pugilist.”  I was uncertain whom I was addressing at that moment, perhaps it was you, perhaps it was nobody.  An author can really only hope that he knows his audience.
The author was wrong.  He did not know his audience.
“No,” I said, “I’m not wrong. And if you think I’m wrong, why don’t we just ask them.  Like this guy over here, reading this.”
Clearly the author had lost his marbles.  It is a cardinal sin to turn the reader into a character in the story.  The reader does not want to be created, he merely wants to observe.
“Bullshit,” I said. “I’m asking.”  I turned to face you, the reader and said, “Hey, you! Am I connecting with you or not?”
You replied with a look of confusion on your face saying, “who me? Look, I’m just a reader trying to get through my day.  I really don’t want any part of this dispute.”
The author turned his attention away from you and declared, “See, I told you we could know him.”
“Wait a second,” you said.  “You don’t know jack-shit about me.  All you know is that I’m reading this stupid story and I don’t want to be involved in your stupid dispute.”
The author realized he had made a mistake.  You had made it eminently clear that the author did not know you and by extension did not know his audience. This made him terribly sad and he contemplated suicide.
“Well don’t freakin’ kill yourself over it,” you said, genuinely concerned about the author’s safety.
“Hey, just cut it out.” I said. “Listen, Mr. Reader, whoever you are, that narrator is lying to you.  You can’t trust him.  He’s one of those unreliable narrators.  I know omniscient narrators aren’t supposed to be unreliable, but this jerk’s got a mind of his own.”
“Listen,” you said. “None of this is making any sense anymore and I’m getting bored trying to figure it all out.  So I’m going to stop reading this story and take a nap.”
And with that, the author was asleep again.  But don’t worry, I’ll wake him up again when I need him.

(c) 2011, Robert G. Berke, Los Angeles, CA, all rights reserved.
for permissions, contact the author at (818)804-5729