April 30, 2013

Imagination vs. Observation

We've all heard it more times than we could count: "Write what you know!" Indeed, as writers, we spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on observing the world around us, to amass a solid basis of that which we know. And yet, if writers were to transcribe the literal events around them, no one would read past the first couple pages (if that).

This is where a writer's imagination comes into play. Our observations weave together into a patchwork cloth which our imaginations then transform into an entire wardrobe (i.e. collection of stories).  

As we continue to live our lives, new experiences and observations almost inevitably replenish our stock of material. Still, it is a creative vision which we seek—a spark that inspires us to work with the material we currently have until it, hopefully, becomes a work of art.  

Then again, what we know—and therefore our material—is not limited to what we have strictly speaking observed. Thanks to our imaginations, we can create new worlds or new creatures and write about a wealth of experiences one person could hardly live in one life. Our imaginations pluck pieces of material and recombine them in unexpected ways, but they also offer us additional material from which to bring frameworks for our creations. Works of science fiction or with paranormal creatures especially clearly remodel the fabric of our reality, melding what the author knows—whether from observation or lore—with the plasticity of the imagined, but in reality, every effective story must do the same.

Sometimes of course, our observations of the world provide a spark of material so bright that it can be snatched from reality and transposed into our work—a motion, a glance, a face, a phrase... Inspiring instants that are seedlings for our stories. I love those moments.

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