Here is where I make my apologies for the skipped entry. I had every intention of blogging last Sunday but was deterred for what I think is the best reason – I got lost in a great book.
Three books actually, a best-selling series that has been out for several years and is now being made into movies. I ignored the world except for the necessities of life for four days straight. I started reading and got swept away…
And getting that absorbed is a rare thing, because the story was so incredible that I wanted to “live” in it. How many books can you say have ever impacted you like that?
When reading, I am the one being entertained, but every writer knows that it’s a lot easier to be on the reader side of the page. And being in the “audience” you come to appreciate the genius of the author. Reading the books, I was blown away by how enveloped I became with the heroine, the thoughtful details of her feelings and her life.
A small cavern deep in my chest ached at how creative the plot was. This author has such imagination!, I thought. My story doesn’t even hold a candle to this…
Okay, there it is. The evil little thought in your mind. The green-eyed self-doubt. The negative self-talk that I have no imagination or that my thoughts aren’t as deep as other, incredible authors.
It’s said that “good writers are good readers.” And readers are the heart of it because they provide the imagination. They “see” the worlds in the words. And while I was a fabulous reader this week, my thoughts occupied with the story, I still felt a twinge of guilt.
I lay in bed one night thinking about this. Good writers are good readers, but we also handle our subject matter differently. Reading other's work is a way to expose yourself to another voice and writing style, but it’s also a way to focus on the nuances of your own story. And as all the awesome plot points of the book I’d read lingered in my mind, my thoughts turned to my manuscript. For a fleeting moment I felt failure. My little single-title contemporary story isn’t futuristic or metaphysical. It isn’t a fraction as dynamic as the book series that has dominated my brain all week. It won’t necessarily leave a reader thinking about the degrees of virtue or ethics, but it is a good love story.
It’s a good story, I remind myself repeatedly.
While the never-ending comparisons continued to battle in my head, I began to ask myself questions. How strong are my characters? What maintains the bonds between them? What are the real reasons two people fall in love and what makes up believable conflict? What reasons would these two people, or any of the adjacent characters, have to care about each another?
Stories are formula but it’s the unique qualities of the characters, plot and voice that make them special.
Inspired by reading, I was motivated to walk over to the pillars of my story’s plot and kick at them to test their fortitude.
It’s easy to be entertained, but its work to make what you write entertaining. And it’s the ability to get lost in a good story that’s essential.
This week I looked at what I had written and asked myself honestly, am I lost in this world? Do I relate to my characters—the places, people and things? Why? Why not?
As I furtively questioned it, poking at gaps that made up the weak points in my story, I did start to feel a little hopeless. Caught in the overwhelming knowledge that I have holes in my work, I also stared squarely into the face of my fears. I questioned whether I have a creative mind, but I must, otherwise why would I endeavor to do this? Spend hours typing, editing…documenting the images I see.
A world of pure imagination, how do we get there? What makes your imagination come alive?
For me, it’s in reaction to my daily routine. I live a life full of regimes. Same clothes, same schedule, same food. I ask myself often how a land of adventure can even reside in the crevices of all of that order, all that monotony. The repetitive patterns of everyday life are played out to a silent dirge sometimes, and then that's when it hits me. The daydreams are the escape. The wayward thought that pops up and asks, “What if I drove past work today? What if I turned onto the highway and drove until I ran out of gas? How far would I go? What would I see along the way?”
I’m currently working to get into that zone and stay there. I’m also applying the obligations that I feel in everyday life to my characters lives. I ask myself, “What makes a person stay in a place? What makes two people feel obligated to one another?” These are the heartstrings that I need to tie in place in my story and I want them to be realistic. I want to build a world, a believable one.
And I am beginning to get lost in my own story, because that’s when I know it’s good. When you want to run home to write the same way you want to run home to read a good book. That’s the goal.
And never doubt the power and expanse of your imagination. If you can appreciate ingenuity in the books you read, then you have the ability to imbue the books you write with personal vision, too.
You just have to open yourself up to it.
- - SNG :0)