A Character in Reality
A Novel by Nicholas Bridgman
Truman Capote once said, “You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.” Nicholas Bridgman’s novel, A Character in Reality, plays with this concept in a new way. The main character, Detective Robert Gladstone, comes to life and steps out of a novel into reality, crushing any of the narrator’s hopes of controlling him on the page.
The reader is left to question, what would you do if a character in a novel you wrote actually came to life? What if the character learned his whole reality was just a construct created by you, the story’s narrator? If you liked the movie The Matrix, you may like Nicholas Bridgman’s reconception of what it means to be alive, which he presents in A Character in Reality. The novel follows Gladstone’s adventures in gaining consciousness, adjusting to the real world, and learning insights about being human.
PRAISE FOR A CHARACTER IN REALITY:
"The underlying story...is that of acceptance, and tolerance...we need to be more accepting of people, and not make others feel unwelcome simply because they are different from us." --Vikki Patis, The Bandwagon
"A well-written and enjoyable account of a character lost in reality...a simple and intriguing story." --Sandra Lopez, Sandra's Book Club
"This is a good story...a quick read that I think a lot of people need to read." --Ashley Tomlinson, Hyper Ashley Book Reviews
Read below to find out more details about the novel, subscribe to Nicholas' mailing list, or download Nicholas' free short story collection, The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories.
ADJUSTING TO REALITY
When Gladstone gains consciousness, he convinces the narrator to take him into reality through a "workaround" on his computer. Then he has to adjust to life in the real world. Even walking and breathing is hard for him, as he has never done these things on his own before. The narrator coaches him on adapting, having him do yoga poses, eat real food with flavor Gladstone has never experienced before, and transition back and forth between fiction and reality until he has fully adjusted.
One insight comes when Gladstone first enters reality, and he accidentally falls down the stairs of the narrator’s house. The narrator counsels him that in reality not everything is planned out by an author. Sometimes there are random accidents, “‘tragedies that impose on the continuity of our lives, seemingly meaningless suffering that we all face from time to time.’” Gladstone’s naive disappointment shines through when he replies, “‘So this pain in my hip, it’s not there for any other reason than I tripped and fell myself down the stairs?’” He is so used to having a narrator shape his life with the end of creating a logical overarching plot, that the traumas of reality appear foreign and scary to him.
As Gladstone adjusts to reality, he finds activities that draw on his background as a character. For example, he likes playing classical music on his cello, “how it was all written out for him. All he had to do was follow the direction on the page, just like he used to follow the narrator’s direction. It gave him a sense of comfort, of being rooted in something bigger than himself, in the swells and passions of great composers, whose music was all planned out for him to reproduce on his cello.” This guided direction reminds him of life as a character in fiction, but with the benefit he can do it in reality.
BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL ACTOR
Once Gladstone has been in reality for several months, he no longer belongs in fiction and begins to create havoc when he returns to the narrator’s story. The narrator demands that he stay in reality, because his presence in the novel threatens to harm the other characters. So, in an effort to make Gladstone feel comfortable in reality permanently, the narrator introduces Gladstone to acting and has him audition for a local play, thinking it would make him feel guided, always having lines to say and direction to follow.
Gladstone has a natural aptitude and becomes an excellent actor, quickly moving beyond local plays and into Hollywood films. For one film he shoots, he has to go to Peru. But the change in culture doubly frightens him, now he “had to think twice about what [a flight attendant] said, afraid of not just whether she knew he was not from Peru, but also whether she knew he was not even from reality.” Likewise, another cast member comments that “‘The change in environment brings out who we truly are. When you’re in a new culture, you can’t hide behind convention, because you don’t even know the convention.’” This constant threat of giving himself away in this foreign culture makes Gladstone’s paranoia become worse and worse.
FIGHTING TERRORISTS OPPOSED TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION
Despite his fears, Gladstone becomes more and more of a real person. The narrator finally tells him, “‘You’ve gained familiarity with this world and learned how to apply the skills you already knew from fiction. You don’t need me any longer. I’m just a narrator, recounting stories. Now you can go out and live your own story yourself, without my help.’”
Gladstone becomes famous as an actor, but with this comes heavy scrutiny by the press and the public. People catch on that he is a character, and protests erupt across the country, from groups opposed to illegal immigration. The protesters claim that he is no different from a criminal, breaking the law, coming into reality with his special powers. Counter-protesters argue that Gladstone can no longer survive in fiction, and it would be inhumane to send him back to his fictional world after he “‘has proven he can be one of us.’” The protests turn violent and Gladstone eventually must face down his nemesis, the leader of an anti-immigration group. His struggles shed light on the old debates of illegal immigration, in a new form, that of a character having entered reality. Will Gladstone overcome the terrorists and remain in reality, or will he be sent back to fiction or killed? Click the link below to buy the book and find out.
Or if you prefer to first sample some of Nicholas’ short stories, click here to download his free e-book, The Passion of Jazz and Other Short Stories.