Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for Imagination

Imagination is key for fiction, as far as I'm concerned. I've been on a number of workshops and writing courses over the last few years and I've met some spectacularly proficient writers. There's only a few whose books I would like to read, though. There seems quite a gap between the craft and some of the actual stories. As Kate Kellaway said: 
I learnt that being able to write well is not at all the same thing as having anything to say.
There isn't always an imaginative story there big enough to carry the kind of novel I like to read. I know how to develop my writing, but there are less courses or workshops on opening up our imaginations in the first place. I sat through workshops watching some people write fantastic prose based on, frankly, recycled stories from TV series or popular books. Now, we can't shake off all the wonderful stories we have been bombarded with over the years BUT surely we can stretch our minds a bit further towards the 'what ifs'?

I would suggest to writers, to have faith in their stories, not worry too much about what other people might think of them. Our first stories are magical fairy tales filled with rabbit holes and wardrobes and scary monsters. I think there's room for elements of that in our adult fiction, even if the book is completely realistic. People do fall in love/see intuitive solutions to the biggest problems/dream and speculate in real life. I've written books about a woman being stalked by the man who nearly killed her, and is fascinated by the specialness of her survival; an identical twin who has never quite recovered from the loss of her twin; an abducted child held back from death by Elizabethan sorcery; a woman haunted by photographs of her childhood abuse in circulation; inheriting a house from your aunt, whose death may not have been accidental but is mixed up with childhood leukaemias; and two bodies in a Tudor well. I'm not suggesting all stories have to be extreme, but look at We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver), for example, or Room (Emma Donoghue). Extraordinary stories.

Reading books and watching films feeds our imaginations. That, I think, is the key. Read widely, and outside your comfort zone, rewrite endings of favourite books, argue for sequels of blockbuster films or TV series. Speculate. Imagine. Go nuts.


  1. Great post, I am hoping that for letter R it will be reigning in your imagination as I can get a bit carried away.

    1. The writer who won the Mslexia competition has just got a major book deal - about a woman who was born covered with hair and a man who cannot die, set in Victorian times. Get carried away!

  2. imagination is a must for writers!
    Happy A-Zing!

    1. I love your blog, I'm now following it by email! I write because I have to - my imagination won't allow anything else. Real life is a bit bland otherwise!