Saturday, 7 February 2009

Saturation Point

There comes a time in the writing of any book when reality become porous and the narrative begins to invade my dreams. I call that moment Saturation Point. It happened recently with the novel I’m currently working on. (I won ‘t say the title of it because I never like to do so until it’s finished.)

There are two characters in my book who until the other night were not particularly important. They didn’t even have names. They were just a pair of minor thugs. Then I went to sleep and found myself standing somewhere unspecified (it was outdoors, that’s all I can remember) and in the distance were two men who seemed vaguely familiar. They were looking intently in my direction and when they saw me notice them, they began walking purposefully and with astonishing speed in my direction.

Suddenly it dawned on me who they were – the characters from my story, except that now it wasn’t a story at all; it was real. In my dream this ominous couple had names, or at least a nickname – the Lily White Boys, on account of the fact that they both had unnaturally blond hair.

As they drew closer I was gripped by terror because I understood with complete certainly that they were gong to kill me and that I hadn’t a chance against them. They were skilled in violence, took pleasure in it, and were utterly inured to its consequences.

Now, in one of those scene-changes that are achieved so effortlessly in dreams, I was no longer outside but lying in bed, though still asleep and they were standing over me. This was it, I realised. This was how I was going to die. I screamed with all the force of my lungs.

The next thing I knew, Rosie was shaking me and saying. ‘Brian, for God’s sake, what’s the matter?’ I gazed around the room in bewilderment and mumbled incoherently about the Lily White Boys until gradually I understood that none of it was real.

‘Poor Rosie!’ I said, when I had finally come to my senses, gone downstairs and brought up two cups of tea. ‘I’m so sorry about that. It must be dreadful living with me’.

‘It could be worse,’ she said, philosophically. ‘At least you don’t see them when you’re awake.’

3 comments:

Paul Lamb said...

In Dennis Potter's novel The Singing Detective he has two thug characters who pursue the narrator/author simply because they want to know what their role in the story is. (At least that's how it happens in the 2nd movie made of the novel.) This kind of meta fiction is a bit beyond the mainstream, but I like it.

Sam Sattler said...

Can you use the terror you felt in your dream to enhance the novel itself? Did it give you a better understanding of the characters than you had before?

Just wondering if the dream would be a productive one.

Brian Keaney said...

It was productive, Sam. The characters feature much more prominently in the story now, they're more fully realised and much more menacing.

Enjoyed your piece about Richard & Judy by the way. I think part of the reason for their rejection by northerners is that R & J seem to epitomise southern metropolitan life