How The World Has Vanished Into The Middle Distance.

We live in interesting times.

There are omens, portents, gurus and lunatics guiding us to the future. There are plagues, whether manufactured or naturally occurring, scaring the bejeezus out of the elderly. There are rumours of wars to come: wars of culture, race, economics, or even land (the oldest one). There are pressure groups using violence and asylum logic instead of rational argument to convince and individuals who can hear nothing except the echoes of their own opinions. There seems to be a feverish, oddly evangelical desire to tear down and destroy, without any idea of what might emerge from the rubble. There are bandwagons rolling and wealthy celebrities clamber aboard for fear of being uncool or because not doing so will hit the bank balance. There is a strong desire to harm amongst people who until recently were calm and gentle. Twitter is a good example of the propagation of opinions founded only in hatred and a sense that injustice has been done, or a feeling that the Tweeter has of being deprived of something or other by someone or other. When the real or imagined abuser cannot be found alive, then the nearest individual or group with whom the Tweeter disagrees is placed in the spite circle and surrounded by barbarians baying for their blood and a plague upon their house.

Has it always been so? Am I only noticing it at this moment?

Is it a natural phenomenon or are there dark forces working to erase logic, reason, democracy and a sense of fair play?

If, for a moment, we agree that the above is true, then how does this affect writers? Answering my own question, perhaps not at all. Depends on what you write, who you write for, what you write for and whether you consider your writing to have any relevance to contemporary times.

If it does not, then you can laugh gaily at my meanderings and move on to something more interesting.

But I would contend that there is nothing more interesting than examining your own writing. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that every word ever written has a contemporary relevance, since you, as the writer cannot help but make it so with your treatment of your subject matter, how your characters react to problems and obstacles, the outcomes you choose, the methods by which the outcomes are reached… and on and on. You are, after all, a creature of your time, whether your work is set in the past, the present or the future.

Your bias will show. You are human. Mine is on every page of my modest output. I try to see events from other viewpoints and sometimes succeed at a cost, but I have noticed a distinct similarity of world view from one of my protagonists/antagonists. As an example, currently I am converting several screenplays of mine into novels or novellas. As I sorted through the stuff, the same character appeared in all but one of the scripts. At first, I thought it was a direct reflection of me, but it was not. It was someone else. This was a little puzzling at first. We all include traits into characters with which we are either familiar or with which we have some empathy (usually the heroic ones!). I came to the conclusion that the character was an ideal version of myself, but with flaws I had spotted in others. I have plenty of flaws, I can out-flaw anyone, but it was a purposeful destruction of perfection and had been, until my realisation, subconscious.

My point, made laboriously, is that it may not be the world that has vanished into the middle distance, but me. I reflect my age, class, gender, ethnicity and a set of human sensibilities, the latter modified by the accretion of experience. The world and its opinions represents what it wants, when it wants, dependent on a mystery beyond my intelligence to comprehend, although as a writer of sorts I am allowed to guess.

The world is no longer what it was and neither am I.

It went ahead and changed whilst I wasn’t looking. It became this perceived bedlam because I, the observer, observed it differently. Or perhaps nothing substantial changed and one tiny particle a million light years away decided to appear simultaneously in my cheese and pickle sandwich and I ingested it. I have 50 trillion cells and some of them might be sharing quarters with any other or every other human being because of this one non-existent particle that is only there when I am there to observe it.

Quantum physics has a lot to answer for.

If you have a moment between blockbusters, take a trip through your work and examine the opinions and action of your characters to see if they have a contemporary corollary – sorry about both the alliteration and the pomposity – see how they fit in the current reality we call the world, or do not. Also check if you can identify you, or the perfect you with added flaws, or the character who is unlike you but with whom you have empathy.

Last time I did it I was a Japanese Tozer.

What for you might ask? I think it will improve your writing and stop you writing the same character with and without a beard.

I am hoping it will improve mine, but I have a cupboard full of beards and many hats and false noses, so I have a feeling it will not.

Then there’s your motivation to write what you write… but that’s another story.

Good luck. The writing journey never ends. Even when you try to end it.

About J.D.Hughes

Disclaimer: The profile photo above was taken when I was (briefly) young and cool. Writer, director and recovered ne'er do well. Simply delightful, but quite unhinged supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN & AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and several short stories, all of which contain The Meaning of Life. Or one of them. New novel to be published mid 2020, but on current performance might be posthumously... Likes dogs and probably was one in a past life.
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5 Responses to How The World Has Vanished Into The Middle Distance.

  1. colingarrow says:

    Nicely put, JD, but I’m not sure I want to delve into myself – there’s already way too much of me in what I write, and enough hats to see me through many winters 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      It could be Pandora’s Box! I suppose I do it when what I’m writing has become stale and I’m bored, but your subject matter is the whole of literature observed with a lovely comedic slant and written impeccably, so you may have no need to navel gaze!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. alhenry says:

    As a fellow writer, I enjoyed following your trail of thoughts/observations here. Always a pleasure to exercise “the little gray cells” as Poirot would say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Very true. Most of the time those cells exercise, then, after a snooze and possibly a few chocolate biscuits, go right back to what they were doing before. We get set in our writing ways, but then so did Shakespeare 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Terry Tyler says:

    Agree wiv what you said, JD, innit. I like this: ‘The world is no longer what it was and neither am I.
    It went ahead and changed whilst I wasn’t looking.’

    I think there comes a point for many over-60s when we look at the world and think, this is a completely different one from that in which I grew up (boy, is that a bad sentence!). And I’m not sure I understand or like it any more. I remember my mother saying something like that when she was in her 70s – and that was only the 1990s, which seems to me, now, like the halcyon days of long ago.

    You’re right, it is hard not to keep writing the same hero over and over, with different hair colours and even a different gender. I try very hard not to. I doubt I am always successful!


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