Of Breaking the (Literary) Fourth Wall

Stephen King says writing is telepathy, and that when we read a well-written book, our mind is in communion with the author’s. In a way, it’s like reading a letter from a friend. Written just for you – telling you a story, painting you a mental picture, tossing ideas your way. “I sent you a table with a red cloth on it, a cage, a rabbit, and the number eight in blue ink. You saw them all, especially that blue eight. We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy. No mythy-mountain shit; real telepathy.” (Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)

So writing is perhaps the most intimate art form. Words, ideas, emotions that come from one mind and are absorbed by another mind, unhindered and uncontaminated. We probably feel like we know most of our favourite writers intimately.

Nevertheless, the idea of having two-way contact with them is exhilarating. We all have our “rock star” writers, the ones we know would turn us into giddy fangirls/boys were we ever to meet them. Writers we want to know in real life. Just ask my (normally cool-headed) coworker who overwhelmed a flustered and blushing Mohammad Hanif with her gushing praise when she ran over to say hello at this year’s Islamabad Literary Festival. Or take the case of when I was a teenager and read The Picture of Dorian Grey for the first time; I was convinced without a doubt that if Oscar Wilde were alive (and straight) I’d marry him – or at least ambush him, bundle him into a potato-sack and abscond.

One recent starstruck moment I had was last year after Neil Gaiman replied to a tweet I sent him. It was 3 am and I had just awoken from an awful nightmare and for some reason, I went on Twitter to see who was around. When I saw Neil Gaiman was active, I sent him a tweet on impulse. And he replied.



Yes, it was a one-word reply. And yes, Neil Gaiman replies to a lot of fan tweets. (He’s actually one of the most accessible celebrity-authors in the business, at least on social media – check out his official Tumblr and send him an interesting question; odds are he’ll answer!) But this moment still felt very special. A fleeting moment of one-on-one contact with a writer whose work I love and admire, in the middle of the night, post-nightmare, when I needed human contact the most. (Of course, I was too excited to go back to sleep after that, but at least I wasn’t in the Twilight Zone anymore.)

So what are your stories? Post them in the comments section! Ever run into one of your favourite writers at a cafe, a supermarket, an airport? Ever tweeted them and been tweeted back? Ever stalked them and followed them to their homes and their kids’ schools? (Okay, that was just a joke. A dark joke.) But seriously – no story is too lame! I mean, look at what I posted. One word. =D


1544386_10153973216530571_699756311_nFatima Shakeel is a regular contributor to DWL and her work has also been featured in Papercuts. You can read more of her writing on her blog.