Notes 2016.05.19 — “Chance Encounter” Interactive Novel



When I applied for the Hot Desk Fellowship back in March, I was convinced that working in a constantly evolving and slightly chaotic environment would be highly beneficial in the creation of such a book as Chance Encounter. This is because “new ideas are generated in the process of human interaction”, I argued in my pitch. As Chance Encounter is intended to be a “choose your own adventure” novel consisting of multiple story streams, both to defy and redefine Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken, chaos sounds perfect as catalyst of insight, inspiration and innovation.

This morning on the train I thought of the (more or less) clichéd words of Virginia Woolf – yes, I know, you have heard them many times – that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. I often find it interesting that many people manage to quote only half of her sentence. The other half is provided here in bold letters:

A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.

Here my attention is drawn to fiction. In Woolf’s words, fiction “is likely to contain more truth than fact”. She went on to say, as a novelist,

I need not say that what I am about to describe has no existence… “I” is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being. Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping. If not, you will of course throw the whole of it into the wastepaper basket and forget all about it.

Later she stressed again:

Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction.

So, my job – our job – as a writer is to stick to the facts, and to mix it with some lies in fiction so that you as a reader need to judge which is which. Reading is absolutely necessary, as it sharpens our ability to distinguish between truth, facts and lies. But, often, it is only through interaction with others in real life that we get a glimpse of real human experiences. To paraphrase Woolf: It is unpleasant to be locked out of a room; but it is worse perhaps to be locked in.


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