What I’m about to tell you will take courage to hear, but it will take more courage to act on. Writing a story takes imagination. That’s right – it takes the same imagination that as a child made you superman or a princess.
Do you have problems envisioning the scenes of your story? Are your characters fuzzy faced? Can you not picture exactly what they look like or where they live? Can you not taste what they taste or smell what they smell? If your answer is yes to any of these, then you lack imagination at some level.
Now, don’t worry! All writers lack imagination at some level. It takes time to build imagination up in one’s mind. Yet, one thing is certain: Without imagination, your story will go nowhere.
Picture two stories in your mind:
(1) An author is sitting under a tree in a park on a sunny afternoon with notebook and pen in hand. As he breathes the fresh air, he smells something different under him. It’s the smell of rich dirt. At the moment, he is writing a scene about rain. His main character is out in the mid-afternoon weather, forced to work his occupation in the mud by a sad set of circumstances. Yet, the character starts singing to himself a song to cheer his own spirits. It’s a song about gardening a flower garden. The author looks up for a moment from his work to see the flowers waving in the gentle breeze in a short flower bed across from him. He remembers the taste of herbal tea, planted in a similar bed of earth, and that brings him later to the scene when the main character, late at evening, is sitting back at his home, drying himself from the rainwater and drinking a mug of freshly brewed, still steaming tea.
(2) An author is sitting under a tree in a park on a sunny afternoon with notebook and pen in hand. He, too, is thinking about the fresh air, flowers, and sunlight. Yet, his main character is not present. Instead, his story is far off and un-reaching. His character is supposed to be riding his horse through town on a sunny day, warning the townsmen and women of an imminent danger. Yet, he doesn’t know what the character is smelling or thinking or saying, except that the story outline mentions something about war abroad in Europe.
What is the difference between these two authors, and why is it that the second author, though in the same place as the first, can’t write the scene of his story?
Imagination. Imagination must draw upon the real world, as you saw the first author in my example do. Don’t be misled by the conventional definition of imagination. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines imagination as “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality”. I want to focus on the word “wholly” because though imagination is something not wholly perceived, it draws a lot upon that which is wholly perceived.
My point is this: If you are not using your experiences/the world to form your imagination, you will not be able to imagine! So, how do you draw from the world?
Reference images. Look up images that can inspire your scenes. Go places to see them, look them up online, drive to art galleries where you can gain references, draw them yourself if you can, gain them from stories you like (reference images can be words – they don’t have to be pictures). I talk a lot more about reference images in my free video training (click the button at the bottom of this post to receive them!). Yet, sometimes, we need examples. Read this post of mine if you want to know some images I used for my third novel that helped to springboard my imagination.
Your fellow writer,
P.S. I can give you pointers all the way, but if you need more, I would love to see you inside Writing Imagination Academy. Apply now! Send me an email with a couple paragraphs explaining your story using some information in my free video training, and I’ll get back with you!