Monday, June 20, 2011

I is for...

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Imagination & Integrity

Two important things every writer needs. Without one, we cannot create; without the other, we cannot succeed. Amazing, how these two completely different entities go far more hand in hand then one might realize. In order to write fiction, we must unleash our imagination, yet to successfully do so, we must unleash with utmost integrity. Confused yet? Let's take a look at them separately, shall we?

imag·i·na·tion (\i-ˌma-jə-ˈnā-shən\) n. (14th century) 1: the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality 2: creative ability 3: a creation of the mind.

Theoretical physicist and author Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create." Writers are storytellers. Plain and simple. In order to create and write a solid story, a writer must utilize the deepest part of his or her imagination,  think up an interesting, workable plot, then put it into words. Sometimes it happens that quickly; sometimes it doesn't. Some authors use their imagination while writing by the seat of their pants (Pantsers, remember?), while others (Plotters) dream up a plot, outline and story-board said plot, then type it all out. It doesn't matter which way you write, so long as your story is original, engaging, and well-written. (Some say that last one is arguable, but in my opinion, it is entirely vital.)

All right, now we've got that covered...

in·teg·ri·ty (\in-ˈte-grə-tē\) n. (14th century) 1: firm adherence to a code of moral or artistic values; incorruptibility 2: an unimpaired condition; soundness 3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided; completeness (see also honesty)

A close friend and former teacher of mine once told me that when we write, we must be honest at all costs. That if we do not practice honesty, our reader will see straight through us. Now, maybe you're thinking, "Honesty? But fiction is just that, isn't it? Fiction. The writer sorta kinda has to be dishonest to write a fictional story... right?" The answer on all counts is, "yes." But that's not the kind of honesty I'm talking about.

For instance, I cannot tell you the sky is green, unless I have some sort of theoretical explanation for its alleged greenness. I mean, we all know the sky's not green. Blue, pinkish, sometimes red, yes, but green? Come on, now.

But what if I told you a nearby planet in space inexplicably and quite suddenly exploded, and at its core, a living mass of radioactive substance, green in color, leaked into the atmosphere at a rate which cannot be measured with Earthen devices? What if the fumes from that toxic substance seeped into Earth's atmosphere, thereby painting our clear blue sky as green as a thatch of Irish clover?

Oh, now we may be onto something. Could such a thing actually happen? Probably not. But by using imagination and integrity, at once, an author can gain our trust. Make us believe the otherwise unexplainable. So, then what happens? We keep reading. And that, to almost every writer out there, is more important than a pretty cover or a New York Times Bestseller stamp at the tippy-top of our novel.

As writers, how do you combine imagination and integrity? Have you ever, in your experience as a reader, picked up a book, started reading, all to lose faith in the story, because either the characters slipped out of character (became unbelievable) or the writer failed to give a solid explanation where it was desperately needed?

By the by, I chose the "green sky" bit, because The Hubby and I ventured out for Father's Day yesterday, and watched a matinée of Green Lantern. LOTS of green going on, and oh my goodness, Ryan Reynolds...

Well. I shall just leave it at that.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,



BREA said...

Love Ryan...just not as a super hero!

Andrew Leon said...

Your post is reminding me of that dude who had that book that Oprah hyped. You know, the one he presented as fact but was actually fiction.

That's also what's at the heart of my distaste for Burton's Batman. He lied to us about what the movie was about.

Lynda R Young said...

Because I write a lot of fantasy and scifi I have to ground the reader by including elements they know and can relate to. It's fun playing with the imagination.

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