Synaesthesia Magazine Science & Numbers - Page 12

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As a writer who actively seeks science, have you ever been intrigued by synaesthesia as a neurological condition, or have you ever utilised it as a literary device?

Yes, I think synaesthesia is super-fascinating. I first came across it when I was doing A-Level art and discovered Kandinsky, and then shortly after I remember seeing a documentary about Nabokov, who was a synaesthete too. I think that the secret to powerful writing is being able to come up with original and accurate metaphors. A metaphor uses a quality from one thing to describe something else – so in a way, metaphor-making is a cousin of synaesthesia, which is one sensory stimulus being carried over into another sense. I think that when anyone writes and makes metaphors, they’re stepping on the edge of the synaesthesia playground. True synaesthesia would be an amazing thing to experience. Someone should invent a machine…

Numbers seems to have played a substantial role in your story '40-Litre Monkey'; why do you think writers often like playing around with numbers?

I hate numbers. I can’t do maths and feel like a real idiot when I have to work anything out. You should see me trying to work out percentages. It’s embarrassing. '40-litre monkey' involved a whole bunch of finger counting to work out the volume of a really big baboon based on the weight of an average one. It would have been simpler to get a real baboon and dunk it in a tank.

In fiction, when you use numbers, you make the story more believable through being specific. I can’t speak for any other writers, but whenever there’s a number in one of my stories, it’s because I want you to believe the lie I am telling in the story.

"Whenever there's a number in one of my stories, it's because I want you to believe the lie I am telling in the story"

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