How to write fiction

The synesthesic writer (or about Kiki and Buba)

Kiki and Buba are two amoebas. They’re very good friends in spite of their differences. Kiki prefers the rough loud voices of Mike Jagger and Guns and roses, whilst Buba is a bit fond of Prokofiev and Liszt. Kiki never has enough time to fill her stomach and Buba has never enough time to talk, instead of eating.

Wait. Did you say the round amoeba is Kiki and the serrated sharp shaped one is Buba? There’s something weird going on here! That’s if you’re a designer of an engineer. If you’re a writer, you might not have noticed the thing yet. Nothing wrong with it, you deal with words and mental images.


What’s going on here is synesthesia. Every human being is synesthesic… in an ample range of degrees. Some people can visualize number 5 in red and number 2 in green instead of black[1] or see colours to symphonies. Do you like Tchaikovsky in pink and purple, Siddhartha in black and bright blue or perhaps Pharaon[2] in greens? Some of us can’t do that. I can’t.

Hey… Aren’t they just stoned? LSD has psychotropic effects, some mushrooms… Nope. I’m sure they haven’t. And no, they’re not schizophrenic or demented. Their brains are, let’s say, slightly different. Like everybody’s brain. Their brain has a tiny bity minor mutation allowing them to make not obvious matching of senses.

Something like Kiki being round and Buba being edged as weird. Don’t you feel it would be better if Kiki had an edged shape and Buba a round one? Because this matching in particular, we can understand to some degree, unless there’s a sort of brain injure[3]


You might have already used this ability of your brain as a writer. No? There’s this rhetorical device or figure of speech where one sense is described in terms of another

Ok. Example given is clarity:

“Back to the region where the sun is silent.[4]”  

“The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was.[5]


Still no relation to Kiki and Buba? Why don’t you say the names aloud? Even better. Say big[6]. How big was your mouth when saying it? Now say small. How small was your mouth now? Say cheese… Hey, the relationship starts to sink! We relate sounds with images and those images could have shaped our words. Maybe.

In the cycle of the Reith conferences of 2003 by the title «The emerging mind«, the neuro-scientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran uses the example of Kiki and Buba to explain synesthesia to the audience. The only difference is that he uses Kiki for the edged amoeba and Buba for the round one. I wanted to make it weird to make it more interesting.
Can you use this brain feature to create in your comic/novel/design/invention? Of course if what you want is to name your character, maybe you should try other articles too.

Do you plan to use synesthesia to help this blog? Do! And thank you.

[1] When printed in black ink since we can print or see them on screen in those colours on purpose

[2] Looking up some song by Phillip Kirkorov I met this Russian rapper whom I don’t listen to but was awesome finding.*

[3] Which I won’t discuss here, I only mention it because some brain injuries cause language problems and this incapability of matching sounds to images is possible. I’m no expert.

[4] Dante.

[5] Shakespeare

[6] In Spanish, big is «grande» and the «a» is frequently pronounced more time to emphasize the meaning. For small, we almost never use «pequeño’ but «chiquito». The ‘i’s being a small pieck of the mouth.

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