Dear Writer Revisited: Letter Nine

The Thought Experiment: The Role of Imagination in the Creation of Fiction

Erm... it's the main one, isn't it?

Virginia has found yet another fault with Writer's story, "The Scream at Midnight" (poor Writer), leading me to ask the question of why Virginia is persisting with reading this story at all.  She must be the world's nicest mentor.  In this letter, Virginia wants to explain to writer why her story seems to fall a little flat.

It lacks imagination.

Spot on, Leo.  Help yourself to a cookie.

Elizabeth Jolley encouraged writers to "develop the moment of truth with the magic of imagination."  In other words, take the things you have seen and observed, and extrapolate them to logical and even illogical circumstances.  Imagine.  And if you think you cannot imagine, get someone to read the following quote to you and close your eyes.

Your mouth is open and someone is pouring warm milk chocolate into it, slowly.  It's sliding down your tongue.  You swallow, and open your mouth again.  They tip the container, but instead of chocolate going into your mouth, now it's vinegar.

If you said YUCK or made a face or something like that, I'd said your imagination is working just fine.  What do you think Elizabeth Jolley?


If you're still intimidated by this idea, don't worry because Virginia's letter has provided for that too!  She says that because the worlds of your imagination are constructed from the everyday world, you should take the time to develop your observational skills, and practice treating your words as playthings with the following handy exercises....

Writing Exercise 9- Before you go to bed each night, write down three examples of interesting things that happened to you during your day, or things that you saw.

1.  My mother told me she wished she had my generosity of spirit.
2. I discovered that I really enjoy it when Scottish people say the word "Toast"
3. Sucking on a Columbine sweet makes me feel warm.

It was actually really hard to write that list, but I'm okay with that.  A bit of reflection never killed anyone and now I know I have to be a bit more present!

Remember that fiction comes from a secret longing to remake the world.  Again, we return to the idea of being REALLY REALLY REALLY invested in what we are writing about and what we are trying to say.

Writing Exercise 10-  Collect items from newspapers for inspiration.  

Georgette Heyer apparently did this.  We actually did something similar when I did a course at KSP once, and we played with pulling three random items out of a box and trying to write a story that connected them.  So there's a fun game for you.

I just wanted to quickly share this with you before I go tonight... this is a quote from the Spineless Wonders website about the pleasures of Revisiting this book... for me, I am visiting for the first time but for many others this truly is an experience of reconnecting with an old friend.  Here's what Charlotte Wood had to say:

‘I first read Dear Writer as a nervy, secretive scribbler-in-journals 20 years ago. Reading this revised version I’m struck again by its practical generosity on technical matters - but am also inspired by the deeper, more complex conversations I think I missed in those early readings: about courage, about the urgency and mystery and self-discovery of the writing process. Dear Writer Revisited may masquerade – convincingly – as a book for beginners, but its lessons are mature and wise.’
—Charlotte Wood, The Writer’s Room Interviews

That last line in particular is brilliant.  So thanks to Charlotte, and thanks once again to Spineless Wonders for getting me involved in this project.  See you all tomorrow.