Is this a post about storytelling? Yes. No. When we read, we get immersed in the story. The character is our avatar. We are the character.

But where do we get these experiences? How can we, the writers, know enough about life to put it down in such a way that another person who is completely unknown to us can live through that imagined avatar?

It’s life. The things that give us joy and pain, that bind and unbind. It’s Births and Deaths, Marriages and Divorces. It’s change and stasis. The things that harm or charm. It’s being part of the world, of the social structures and communal codes. Life.

Life has a way of giving us moments, tiny little bits of deeply emotional moments that stay with us. Most people find it easy to recall the bad things that happened in their lives. They can easily forget the boring bits – go to work each day at the same time on the same bus to the same job for ten years and it all becomes a blur to the extent that sometimes it’s gone from the mind altogether. It’s much harder to recall the joys in life. Why is this?

Is joy so fleeting that it doesn’t stick? I don’t think so. When you listen to people giving a eulogy about the life of a loved one, they play back the moments of joy that person brought, gave, lived. And we go to whatever lies beyond, bringing those moments to life one last time in the memories of those who wish the farewell to the now life-unbound person who shared their world. For a moment.

Is pain so bad that we keep it in our heads for all future interactions? I think so. It’s a safety mechanism. It’s something joy doesn’t need. You don’t need reminders of joy to keep yourself safe, but you do need reminders of dangers and harm to ensure they don’t happen again – or to be prepared for them when they do.

That’s the difference, and it’s why stories work from developing an avatar who reflects and encompasses the fears and dangers of life, and moves through them toward joy, toward safety.

A story has an avatar for us to slip into and learn the lesson of pain without the physical harm. We rage, we laugh, we cry, all deeply felt – but as and through the avatar of the story, not in our real world.

In the real world, things need more than a moment to deal with the consequences and dangers. When a person dies, there’s a lot to do, people to manage, processes, and all while grieving. These occasions steal time, energy, joy.

In a story, the avatar deals with these, and the reader empathises, maybe even relives some of it, but they can close the book and feel relieved.

Not so in real life.

The loss of a limb, a wound, a trauma – in a story, it’s a feel through the avatar. Real enough – until the relief of either finishing the story and putting it out of the mind, or closing the book and relishing returning to the life of that avatar at a later time. And happy that it isn’t their life, isn’t ‘real’. The book is shut, the avatar left to deal with the darkness, shucked like a wet coat.

And yet we create avatars for our real life, too.

My new profile picture is an avatar. It has a big chin. That’s because I cop a lot on the chin. Most of the drawing apps don’t do a great job with avatars (unless you pay, and if I were going to pay, I’d get an artist and tell them what to hide and what to strengthen), but I can’t do a photo picture anymore.

Too much of me has changed. I still have hair with colour (and I’m not telling my age, but all my sisters (and brother) were grey by 30. I’m much older than that now), and I still have all my limbs. There are other bits missing or failing in their allocated functions. And there are scars, especially around the face and eyes. Maybe in a few years the scars will fade, or I’ll consider them as ‘trophies of war’, but not today.

I became an avatar so I can front the world through a safe visage. I am become story.

An avatar in a story can’t stand back and let things play out – they have to make decisions, take some form of action, do something about the situation to move beyond stasis. A passive story avatar is as boring as real life (or worse), but we learn how to become confident enough to act in real life by ‘living’ as the avatar in that situation through their story. We can act as if, we can play it out in our heads.

We are story. All of us, all the time, if only we take the time to live a life moment by moment, recalling all the joyful, painful, and every other emotion we can imagine.

Lots of long sentences in there. Lots of life moments. It’s May, and a dark and cold month in Australia.

Photo by Gerardo Manzano on Pexels.com

7 thoughts on “Avatar

  1. Fabulous post, Cage. As a gamer I probably ‘live’ within my avatar more than most, but I think the ability to mesh with an avatar is common amongst those who read a lot. Especially if the writer knows her stuff. Takes two to tango. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I write so this happens – the trilogy I’m writing has three main characters, and they alternate being the pov character as necessary, not by chapter, but on a scene-by-scene level.

    When I write, I am channeling the character – and the intent is for the readers to take up that mantle in the process of reading, and actually BE each character.

    I deliberately don’t have a narrator, nor author intrusions.

    Many of my readers have commented on the intimacy and immediacy – which means, I hope, identifying with the characters and their decisions.

    I like the effect.

    Liked by 1 person

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