Elaine Forrestal

Life Imitating Art or Art Imitating Life?

Moira Court’s art both reflects and reinvents life (from Miss Llewellyn-Jones Goes to town)

When life imitates art, colliding with it as it did during the recent six-day search for a missing woman in dense bush around Bluff Knoll, should we be surprised?

The art of writing fiction demands a strong connection with life. As authors we must convince our readers the story we are telling is real, no matter wether we are writing fantasy, science fiction, magical realism. Readers will not suspend their disbelief unless we are able to convince them that our characters have similar hopes and fears, loves and hates, vulnerabilities to their own. Even robot characters, while staying true to their mechanical nature, must have some human frailty in order to connect with the reader. Settings can be other-worldly. Dialogue can be simply a series of expressive grunts or entirely body language. But there must be something totally convincing about the characters. At their heart there must be a fundamental humanity, a recognisable emotion.

In other words, no matter how outrageously different we imagine our invented characters to be, they must have enough vulnerability for readers to feel a connection with them. If a reader ends up not caring whether a central character lives or dies there is no incentive to keep reading.

That would be a tragedy of a different kind.