I remember being friends with Nancy Drew when I was a freshman in high school. She’s more exciting to be with than the twins from Sweet Valley High in grade school (you can beg to disagree). But the action was much tougher with the Hardy Boys, who I met a couple of weeks after I knew Nancy. I remained friends with those guys and had formed a strong bond of secrecy during our sleuthing days.
But then there came, Huck – Huckleberry Finn – who I had the fortune to meet and spend a short amount of time with on the Mississippi river. I thought, “Hey, this guy is actually cooler than Tom!” and I felt a tingling sensation in my cheeks. Hanging out with him, even for a couple of days, with all the drama happening on and around our raft, was one of the most unforgettable moments of my life. (I guess I have to give him a call one of these days.)
I’ve met these people over the course of my life and have never been so proud of having such. You see, I didn’t have much, but I’ve been to places more colourful, bewildering, astonishing, and fantastic than where I am now. You might have heard about Harry and his sidekicks Hermione and Ron or about the White Witch who lives in an ice castle on top of a snowy mountain. Like me, you might have been there some time in your life.
However, as I grew older, I nurtured a penchant for the macabre and pitch-black mysteries. I became a follower of Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, Thomas Harris, and James Patterson among others of the genre.
Suddenly, things become red, thick, and gory, without me being fully aware of it happening. I knew of lust, greed, power, corruption, evil, blood, murder, and sex- all of which sicken the faint of heart.
I was no longer in the scenes. I refused to be a part of them. Instead, I became an avid spectator, and of those I met, not one had become my friend (no one wants to be friends with Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter, and Jack Torrance). If we did hit it up, I might catch the bug and start shooting people or burying a hatchet into someone’s skull, which will never happen in real life. That, I promise.
The difference between now and then is that reading has presented itself in a different shade. Now, as I read whatever novel I have in hand, I no longer see myself in the story’s universe. I don’t feel like touring the chocolate factory with Charlie anymore, or even helping Nancy discover the mystery of the tower. What I have left is empathy, or the lack of it.
This is what happens when you mature, when your mind only absorbs details but fail to immerse you in a world that the author tries to paint in words. I know the sun is, as the author puts it, a sallow orb of light sinking down the edge of the horizons. But I don’t feel like the person or being with the person witnessing this grand presentation of nature. I just sit there on the couch, knowing the protagonist is watching the sunset.
Is he sad? Well, I feel sad for him, too. Is he afraid of the future? I fear for what tomorrow may bring him as well. I don’t know about you, but maybe I’m doing something wrong. Maybe, I’m not reading enough. I don’t feel like acting the part like what I used to. I have become a witness. Growing up reduced me into a spectator, and I feel so powerless.
If I were to go back to my childhood or teenage days, I might have been able to cherish the closing of the day in character. I might have sat beside the protagonist on the edge of the cliff and watch the tinge of the sun’s tangerine reflecting on his face with pleasure. My heart could have jumped with amazement seeing the burst of colours on the dimming sky. I might have remembered that day until now with clarity and conviction that it did actually happen. That it was not a part of my imagination, that I was really there watching the sun sank, but with the dubious self-knowledge that it wasn’t real.
Because I’ve come to realise that I do not hold the fate of the novel’s characters, I began to question their motives. I start to analyse who they are and why they have become such. A long time ago, I was passive enough to jump right into the action without asking Nancy or Huck why we were doing such things.
Things might have been less colourful than they were before, but reading is just teaching me a lesson in life. I’m now seeing things the way the artist or author wants me to, and not the other way around. I’ve become critical and a spectator of something unfolding right in front of my eyes. I may no longer feel that I am a part of the story, but this only makes me capable of understanding man’s clockwork even better.
For the aspiring novelist (like me), that’s what makes it amazing.