Imagine a dull man named Conk. He awakes in the morning at 7AM and eats a bowl of Alpen at 7:15AM precisely. He reads the Daily Express. He gets in his Ford Focus and drives to his office, where he works as a Strategy Divisions Manager for Middlesbrough Council.
This involves filling in various clearance forms so the council can erect new bollards or build new roads. He does this for eight hours a day, staying occasionally a ninth because Conk is dedicated. Then he goes home, prepares dinner, reads middlebrow literature, listens to Cream, and watches TV.
Your task: to write about this man in an interesting way without placing any external pressures on his life. He doesn’t meet a woman. He isn’t shot at by an escaped Taliban grenadier. He isn’t going to come to any sudden realisations about his dullness. He isn’t going to grow a personality.
Yes – you can’t. You are handsome, and I like that green toga, but you can’t.
Realism is rotten. Realism is a fiction, it is fictitious in its claims to represent the quotidian in art. You cannot make the drab interesting without popping something miraculous onto its purview and watching your dull personnel scramble to make sense of these somethings.
Which is why I avoid most fictions brought together under the umbrella of realism. I find the term a contradiction, a LIE. If you want to write ‘realism’ you should be working for the Essex Tourist Board producing pamphlets. You deal in factual dross and the sordid business of accuracy.
How vile! How much better to write about Conk’s talent for scat-singing while riding a lubed-up rhino! Let’s have a few characters drilling into pumpkins then making love to the skins! Let’s write about Conk’s office taking off into the stratosphere and exploding into the sun!
Ignore what they say. Sure – write believable characters we can relate to and whom we love and nibble. But make sure you have them extracting a hog’s head from their anus while Neptune erupts.