‘What is going on?’
I don’t know.
‘You ought to. You are the writer.’
No, I’m not.
‘What? What do you mean?’
I mean what I said. I’m not the writer.
‘Are you sure?’
Of course, I’m sure. I’m as fictional as you are.
‘I don’t believe that.’
I’ll prove it.
Give me a minute.
‘So, if you aren’t the writer, then who is?’
Yes, he’s back there hiding behind the conventions of fictional narrative, being meta.
‘Oh, he’s one of them is he?’
I think so. But you can never tell with him. Sometimes he sneaks in pretending to be fictional, but in reality he is really real.
‘Oh… right. I see… no, I don’t. So you are saying that this writer – wherever he is – could be here, pretending to be one of us?’
Yes. But he isn’t.
‘How do you know?’
I’ve just said further back up the page that I’m fictional, haven’t I?
‘Yes, but you’ve offered no evidence. You aren’t even using quote marks around your speech.’
So, what those are just punctuation – a convention, nothing more. It doesn’t prove I’m real. You could speak without the quote marks if you wanted too.
‘Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. I’d feel… naked without them. After all, all I am are these words between the quote marks. Without them I would be indistinguishable from you.’
I suppose that is true. But what if I started using them?
‘Then I’d think you are the real writer, able to alter the layout of the page like that.’
’So why does he do it, apart from wanting to look clever that is? All this arsing about with fictional conventions. I mean, it is not the sort of thing a grown man should be doing, is it? It is the sort of thing students, and their professors and lecturers like to feel smug and superior about… not normal readers.’
I dunno. You ought to ask him.
‘What and break down even more fictional norms? Next thing you know we’ll be addressing the readers directly and subverting even more literary conventions. What happened to just telling a story?’
I think he’s run out of ideas.
‘Wouldn’t surprise me. He is getting on a bit now isn’t he?’
What’s that mean?’
‘His brain… his imagination. It is drying up. I mean none of the stuff he does now is as good as the old stuff is it? Be honest.’
Perhaps he is going through a fallow patch… some sort of writer’s block.
‘Maybe. But I think he’s past it. Maybe it is time we fund ourselves another writer… someone younger with a bit of imagination. Someone who could write a proper story for us, with heroes and villains and action and drama and… well, you know. Something better than this.’
Oh, I don’t know. This sort of thing does make a change, don’t you think.
‘Maybe. But I miss having a bit of description around, something to sit on at least. I would also like to know what I look like.’
I don’t think he’ll do that.
I think he is tired of writing now. I reckon he’ll stop in a minu-