Recently the main character in The Worlds Within, Aedinn Finn, went through an ordeal that tested his handle on reality. As the author, I knew for a long time that the moment would come. Finn had lost his memory, had lost his true identity, and had woken up in a world unfamiliar to him, but since he didn’t remember a different world, his mind tried to make the one in which he had woken up his own.
But his mind forever fought his reality. His mind knew that The Nyre Lands were wrong, but gaps were missing in his memory. He knew of no other place. Either he tried to exist in The Nyre Lands, or nothing. There was nowhere else to go, as far as he could tell.
But the wrong reality gnawed at him. Ate at his sanity. He saw places. Had waking visions. Heard sounds that were not there. And then an ordeal in the town of Catchwood frays his mind to the point where he starts to see another reality. What he sees makes him doubt his own sanity.
I titled this post Descents Into Madness on purpose. Writing that part of the novel reminded me of two wonderful books, Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, and 1408 a story in Everything’s Eventual, a short story collection by Stephen King. If you have not read these stories, they are at or near the top of my list, especially Neverwhere. In each story the main character is tested. In each story the main character has their reality challenged. They come through either better or worse for wear. Often I re-read just those parts of the stories. To me the tests of character are that powerful.
My own character, Aedinn Finn, isn’t aware of how the challenge to his reality has changed him. I do hope that it is evident to the reader though.