Stephen Hawking said this. When novelists sit down to produce a story, do they reproduce reality?
No. For a start, everyone’s version of ‘reality’ is different (see above). Which works well, because that gives writers scope to produce their own. When you and I, for instance, look at the colour green, we may not be seeing the same shade; and even the word will have a hugely differing number of connotations for us both. So a story is the writer’s version of reality. That’s an exciting idea for me. When I sit down to write, I’m showing you my world. My version of green.
Does a novel reproduce life? Yes and no. Listen to anyone’s conversation and imagine that put down on a page. All the meanderings and mutterings. No, a novelist pours conversations through a sieve, extracts the poignant or salient points, rumples it or clarifies it. It’s all designed to make you look in the direction that the novelist is pointing.
This all lets me take fantastic liberties. For instance, when I was writing The Ice Child, I introduced a small boy into the crew. That wasn’t reality, because he didn’t exist. But he was put in there to give an innocent, fresh, poignant perspective. That’s my version of the reality of that fateful journey.
A few years back, I was fortunate enough to attend the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in London, and when Stephen Hawking said ‘Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet…be curious,’ I found it deeply inspiring. It’s what I’ve been all my life…curious. I’ve never stopped asking those toddler questions, ‘Why? Why? Why?’
In the case of The Ice Child, why did they continue that journey when Crozier thought the ‘ice was against them’? In the case of The Girl in the Green Glass Mirror, why did Richard Dadd take nine years on a single painting? And what was he thinking when he drew the grotesquely mesmerising expression on the face of the child in ‘A Child’s Problem’?
On so on and so on……book after book !
I love asking questions. You never know which version of reality you’ll find.