It has been a while since I’ve immersed in other worlds. It is these worlds, or possible worlds, that have been playing around inside for some days now. Perhaps there may well be just the seven standard plot-lines, as some advocate, but there are endless worlds to write. This is both an open invitation, a door to the confectionary shop, and something else (not so tragic as a ‘curse’ but bordering on a little overwhelming, at least, at times).
Just when we think we’ve got our writing pinned down, our place in the space of possible books inked in, our genre-direction, along comes a tugging at the sleeve: what if you tried it this way, or dabbled that way? Rather than the Ineffable Muse, this is the Imp in our writerly limp. Try to shake him off but he’s made of burdock and he sticks there steadfastly.
This isn’t a post about genres. This is a post about worlds. Despite the endlessness of worlds, I can’t write them all here. So, what is it that these worlds boil down to for me? How can they be collected? What is it that each collection is? Perhaps, in worlds, we’re limited to time:
Real now worlds
I go through phases of wanting very much to write what I really see, what I really feel in the very now, out there, or with imagined others, in the reality of their lives. The trouble is, the real world out there just doesn’t seem real enough sometimes. Sure, there are amazing real sights and emotions to fall through, but this is why other writers fall to the fantasies of their dragons and their swords, their allegories and their epic densities: the real world doesn’t always satisfy.
I’m hugely envious of writers of the real world. They can effortlessly conjure up fictions and place them squarely just outside my door, solid as it is. From page one they write place and purpose, the sensory, characters who feel and think and talk just like any of the rest of us do. The real world can be a fascinating place if we look hard enough. I’m working on it.
What drives us to slip back in time? Perhaps it’s a lament sewn within our writing: we’re driven underground, undertime, burrowing away from technology, the conditions of our human interactions, the ways or pace of it all. We see light in the peace of the past or in the exotic tumult of it all. It’s this exotic appeal that takes us abroad, away from the home-spun usualness or decay of the now.
Even war and pestilence, and all manner of scrofulous past affairs, are exotically charged. We want to run away because we’re lost. We upgrade our info-ware for convenience, but we downgrade ourselves in time. I would like to write past worlds, if I can find a way around the laborious research.
So we end up in future worlds, sometimes, by default. Anything can happen if it hasn’t happened yet. Future worlds are populated by the writer who has no need of such research, though his writing may well be hugely thought about and extrapolated from the now. Perhaps he researches instead by reverse engineering: working his way backwards to here and now along threads of possibility.
We can get stuck in future worlds because they can be intensely personal. Just like alternate fantasy worlds (though maybe we can call all writerly worlds ‘fantasy worlds’), future worlds spin out and out; they’re just for the writer who gets up every morning immersed in these, not immersed in the delicate art of effectively traversing the bus routes from A to B. If others are lucky, they may catch just a little flavour of these worlds when the writer lets them in. Is it possible to have a future real world? The future now? The future real now? The very near future reality? This is a writing aim.
My writing was recently described as being in the realms of ‘alternate poetic realities’. I like this. Thanks, Kirsty. I’m comfortable here because it’s the past, the now, the future, the near future, somewhere, somewhen. When we write alternate worlds we can also get stuck, as with other worlds, or we can create highly individual places, or we can create exotic spaces. Of course, none of it is of the ‘real world’, as such. (Though I do believe that, in other semantic realms, all fiction is ‘real’, all stories are ‘true’, but that’s another story in itself). Perhaps the trick of the light is to try to infuse into the alternate world the real nowness: present the alternate as the possible now, as the actual now, as something other than ‘the otherness’.
I’ve lived in alternate worlds for a while now. Yet, every so often I get that tugging at the sleeve: what if you tried it this way? says the Imp. What if I did? What if I left the alternate poetic reality? What’s the air like out there? What does it taste and smell like? Is it rough or, perhaps, it’s smooth . . .?
Other possible worlds have been playing around inside for a few days now, and I’m wondering where, or when, I’ll soon be.