I picked up a book that was on a horror display at my library. It’s called NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. At the time, I didn’t know this was one of my idol’s (Stephen King) son, but after reading the first few chapters, the similarities were unmistakable. I won’t spoil the book and I won’t rewrite my review, but I will talk about inscapes and the frightening realization that we all have one. Hopefully, though, they aren’t as bad as some we see in the book.
NOS4A2 follows a woman, Victoria McQueen, from the time she’s a young girl up through adolescence, early adulthood, and parenthood. She has a knack for finding lost things, so long as she has her bicycle with her. Her bike (a bicycle when she’s young and a motorcycle when she’s older) has the power to ride the unseen roads to get to destinations that aren’t in our world. Victoria has the ability to ride long stretches of road across the rickety bridge that had collapsed when she was a young girl. She just needs a destination in mind and a strong will to find whatever she lost. Which, when it’s her son who had gone missing, was easy to summon.
There are two others in the story who have a similar ability. One uses her power for good (Maggie Leigh, a librarian in Iowa with a knack for Scrabble and uses her endless supply of Scrabble tiles to get messages from the beyond) and the other uses it for not-so-good (Charlie Manx, a modern-day vampire who feeds on the souls of children who he kidnaps to his inscape called Christmasland).
To find out more, you’ll just have to read the book that also doubles as a self-defense weapon of over 600 pages.
What I want to discuss is the concept of inscapes. This is an actual philosophical concept, which I found fascinating to know it’s been discussed in journals, that basically translates to “the essential inner nature of a person, an object, etc.” Hill (the author of NOS4A2) applied this not in the Christian sense that it comes from but as a mental world that exists for each person. Except for most people, their inscape stays inside their mind instead of becoming a physical place that can be travelled to, like Christmasland.
Only some people can manifest their inscapes in the physical world. Not only that but they can share the same thought space within their inscapes with other people.
We call these people artists, musicians, architects, and builders of all kinds of things.
As an author, I found this parallel to be a little frightening. (You’ll know why if you read NOS4A2.) I started to expand the similarities, which got a little freaky, to be honest.
In the book, the vehicles to get to an inscape differed. For our hero, Victoria, it was her Raleigh bike and her Triumph motorcycle. For Maggie Leigh, the librarian, it was her Scrabble tiles. For Charlie Manx, it was his antique Rolls Royce Wraith. For me, it’s music.
They (whoever they are) usually tell writers to write in silence, and I tried that for many years. I tried listening to all types of music and came to realize I can tune out the world and travel to my own inscape if I listen to classical music. Specifically, I need to start with this one then I can listen to whichever instrumental/ambiance music I like. But I need to start out with that one to fully immerse myself in my world and bring it to our collective reality so I can share my inscape with you, using words.
That by itself is all well and good. I can get behind the idea that we all harbor within us a secret thought world that we can choose to share with others using a variety of mediums. Great. Share away. It was the next aspect that really took hold of my mind and wouldn’t (isn’t) let go. In the book, each character as they used their vehicle to travel lost a part of themselves, a sacrifice to doing the impossible. (Bringing a thought and manifesting it in the physical world is exhausting!) Vic lost her sanity, Maggie lost her ability to speak (she stutters), and Charlie lost his soul. As someone who frequently tries to bring my inscape (my fictional worlds) from my mind to the paper to share it, I can only wonder what it is I’m sacrificing to do this. What we all are sacrificing. For me, if I have to choose something, it’s probably my ability to be social with others, not that I was particularly good at it before, but I’ve been writing for over twenty years so it’s hard to remember a time before, anyway. I just know that the more I immerse myself in a particular inscape (story), the clumsier I am with words and the more I stumble over what I’m trying to say, and gods help us if I try to make eye contact while talking. (Hello, flushed cheeks.)
As I turned on the music and put on my headphones tonight, I could almost visualize the Shorter Way bridge (Vic’s bridge) forming in front of me as it took me to my story, and all the world–and my worries about sacrifices–disappeared with it.
Most of my readers on here are also writers (hi!), but what is your inscape (creative or not), and what’s your vehicle to get there? And, if you’re really daring, what is it you’re sacrificing to travel to your inscape time and time again?