Making sense of chaos. Use your superpower...
Updated: Jun 30, 2022
A war in Europe; a soaring cost-of-living crisis; wheat shortages; astronomical prices at the pumps; the apparently forgotten pandemic; politicians partying while the people cowered in their own homes…
We live in disturbing and chaotic times. It’s almost as if the wheels of reality have become unbuckled. The fundamental truths that once appeared to support civilisation eroding, being replaced by a kaleidoscope of competing views, narratives, even competing truths…
This isn’t fiction – this is the world in which we seem to live now. The world in which my daughters are growing into.
How to make sense of all this craziness?
How to learn to live when the old certainties collapse around us?
We sometimes turn to stories.
As an author, I try to make sense out of chaos every day. My job is to weave scenes into plausible narratives that propel a reader forward. Asking questions, suggesting solutions. As you’d expect, there is a tonne of machinery that lies behind the events of any character’s journey through a story. A carefully arranged sequence of events that ebb and flow, building to an inexorable and hopefully satisfying climax.
And so Esta Brown and her friends exist in a world of my own creation. A world that is also falling apart, a world that has ceased to make sense, a world where the old certainties are (sometimes literally) flipped on their heads.
If you have been keeping up with Esta’s adventures, you will know that book 2 in the series left her and her friends at something of cross-roads. A place of even greater uncertainty than where she began.
As I come to write the final act of book 3, I wanted to share with you the complexities of bringing the chaos of her world to life.
That's the chaos... what about the superpower?
I recently went to see ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’. It was an interesting parallel to my series. In this movie world, reality is also broken and unpredictable. All things seem possible in an infinite cosmos of competing universes. Doctor Strange navigates through all the infinite craziness with the help of his third eye, I guess?
In Esta’s story there are, happily, only seven realities to worry about. The six realms of Samsara and the pure Land of Odiyana that sits in the centre of them.
As book 3 begins, a mere hair's breadth separates these realms. Each one separated by a silk curtain.
How am I to make sense of that for you, the reader?
Yes. I admit. I want to blow your mind.
That’s my remit.
I want you to scratch your head. I want you to perform some mental gymnastics to make sense of it all… because that’s kind of the point of the whole story! It's how Esta is experiencing reality.
You can’t write a novel about reality breaking down without that coming across as a little… chaotic.
At the same time, you, the reader, still have to follow events. No matter how chaotic. You need to understand the dilemmas and the stakes.
I’m not writing a screenplay either, so I can’t just throw in some cool graphics and say: “There’s your multiverse.” Now let's get on with the story!
I somehow have to make this chaos make sense to you. I have to allow you to visualise it. Otherwise… you’ll give up and go look for something a little more tangible.
The way I do this is by doing something no movie - however big its budget - can ever really do. I allow you to experience the madness through the eyes of the very special hero of the story:
Esta is my hero. She does have certain abilities. But her real super power is, in my mind at least, tolerance.
It's a sort of pragmatic patience with the uncertain world that is letting her down so very badly.
Yes. The world is messed up and all over the place… but, sometimes you just have to get on with things.
As the ancient Buddhist parable goes: When you've been shot with an arrow... rather than speculate about who made it, out of which kind of wood it has been formed, and why anyone would want to shoot a nice person like you with it in the first place... you should just pull the damn thing out so you can get on with healing,
So, as the rest of us plough on into a wilderness of chaos and uncertainty, if we can take a leaf out of Esta's book: even in the midst of madness, hold on to our sanity, hold on to our kindness of spirit...
...then maybe we will have found our own super-power.
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