Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to say that everything in this article is of my own personal opinion. The views expressed in this article are not representative of everyone here at Impish Idea. As always, you, the reader, are fully entitled to respectfully disagree.

With that said:

On Writing and Reality

We writers are an odd breed — while the rest of the world has moved on from creating imaginary worlds and people, we writers employ these elements on a regular basis. In fact, we take pride in our careful crafting of these flights of fancy, putting ourselves through a veritable hell to share them with the rest of the world. And as if spending inordinate amounts of time on fictional entities was not enough, the standard we all judge ourselves against is reality, the antithesis of imagination.

“Is this believable?” is the question most paramount in all our minds. After all, if a story is too far removed from accepted reality, the readers cannot relate and therefore reject the story as a pile of incoherent dribble. But so long as there is a familiar or relatable element of the story, such as a character or plot sequence, or an element that hearkens back to reality, the readers can accept even the most absurd things, such as wingless flying lizards, as a matter of course. For you see, as writers, our goal is to make that which is inherently fictional a reality, and, if we are diligent in our craft, we succeed.

But what is reality? What is real? Both definitions hinge on objectivity, but how can there be true objectivity when our perceptions of reality are inherently subjective? For instance, two people look at a rock — to one, the rock is simply a rock, metamorphic in composition, geologically interesting, but otherwise unworthy of note. To the other, the rock is a beautiful object, the way the light refracts off the crystalline inclusions poetry in color, something to be captured in a depiction and treasured forever. Of these two perceptions, which is the real one?

Objective reality dictates that the rock exists as both parties observe that there is a rock. But what if the rock isn’t really a rock? What if, for the sake of argument, the rock is actually the granite-based carapace of a turtle-like creature? Unless the creature emerges from its shell and begins to move, both observers will continue to perceive the carapace as a rock, and that rock will remain part of their perceived reality. And so we must conclude that the reality we are all familiar with, the reality we strive to emulate, is simply a collection of the things we have experienced; by extension, that which we experience is reality to us.

As writers, we constantly harness this perceived reality. Every time a reader peruses our writing, every time they experience the contents thereof and find it believable, what we have written becomes real to them. And even after we are long dead, even after our lives are lost to the passing of time, every time a person reads one of our works, every time a person enjoys them, we live on, becoming real to the readers as well.

Each time we writers write a story, we toe the tricky line between reality and fantasy. Are we crazy? Perhaps, though it’s a craziness the world treasures, for without us writers, not only the world of literature but life itself would be drab and monotonous indeed.

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  1. Wizard of Toast on 26 November 2009, 16:06 said:

    Ohh, that was lovely

  2. Puppet on 26 November 2009, 16:08 said:

    Nicely done. :D

  3. Romantic Vampire Lover on 26 November 2009, 17:52 said:

    Ha ha, I like your philosophies. ;) Great job, Kyllorac!

  4. Steph (what is left) on 26 November 2009, 23:11 said:

    This needs to be linked to in a bazillion places. It’s an amazing philosophy with so many quotable quotes.

    Then again, we’re all going to think that until the turtle comes out.

    Good job, Kyller!

  5. Anonymous45 on 27 November 2009, 13:26 said:

    question: if writers are imitating reality, creating realistic people etc., what is the point of writing? reality already exists! why create something we already have? isn’t that a waste of time?

  6. Snow White Queen on 27 November 2009, 13:45 said:

    This is a great article, Kyllorac. Thanks for posting!

    @Anonymous: That’s a good question. Reality already exists, but not in the way that a writer creates it. When a writer writes a story, s/he invites you to see the world (or any world) through different eyes that you would not see otherwise. At least, that’s what I would think.

  7. Kyllorac on 27 November 2009, 15:19 said:

    @Anonymous – Not really. Although writers emulate Reality, they also create it. For instance, in the reality we all inhabit, dragons do not exist, while, in the reality of a story, they may be a fact of life. I think where your confusion lies is that you see reality as a single entity.

    Going back to the turtle/rock, the two observers’ perceptions of it are both completely different. However, this does not make either one’s more real than the other; both perceptions are Reality to their owners. By that token, at any moment in time, there are numerous such realities which are constantly being created and revised. In addition, the reality of a story, a dream, and the events we physically experience first-hand are all different types of reality. All these smaller realities overlap to form what we think of when someone says “Reality.”

    Writers create a reality which, in turn, contributes to the larger Reality we experience.

    I hope that wasn’t confusing.

  8. Anonymous45 on 27 November 2009, 20:13 said:

    @Snow White Queen that makes sense… could be one reason

    @Kyllorac em.. multiple realities wasn’t exactly what I meant. I meant if we already have our world, why create more made-up ones? i.e. recreate what we already have?

    P.S. I am on of those world-building/story-creating people too. I’m just being contmplative/philosophical =D

  9. Wizard of Toast on 27 November 2009, 21:53 said:

    I think we recreate reality because ours isnt satisfying enough for us humans and writers and thier stories fill that want/need for something diffrent or better…so we also recreate reality as our duty to society

  10. LordShadowblade on 28 November 2009, 14:12 said:

    I would say it’s because of our desire to “sub-create.” I’m not sure if Tolkien coined that phrase or if it was just an idea he borrowed heavily, but there it is.

  11. LordShadowblade on 28 November 2009, 14:17 said:

    “It’s all in Plato, ALL in Plato, what do they teach children in schools these days?” – Last Battle