I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. Steven Wright
We laugh at this quote because we sympathize with how difficult it is to write a book worth reading. Writing a novel presents challenges. But even when the plot sings, dialogue scintillates, and characters faithfully travel their arcs, the actual execution of a story can come across as flat. I have noticed this problem in manuscripts by beginning writers, in novels I have read for review or to judge, and sometimes in my own manuscripts.
And yet, there is a friend just waiting to help us enliven our manuscripts. I’m talking about imagination.
The more completely I envision a scene as I write, the more it lives on the page. Less imagined scenes don’t fulfill their potential. Breathing life into a fainting story can be as simple and as complicated as using imagination.
What is imagination?
Merriam Webster defines imagination as ‘the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.’
Let’s take this definition apart.
- An act of will. It takes a decision and active participation. This requires strength of mind and I believe strength of body as well. When I’m mentally exhausted or physically drained, I have a hard time using my imagination.
- Powerful. The ability to imagine is a gift breathed into us by our Creator. Forgetting this fact can cause us to try to force things and strips out the divine touch, ultimately leading to dry writing.
- Mental: Because imagination takes place in my thoughts, it needs my attention. If distractions disrupt or divide my focus, my thought processes can’t fully engage.
- Visual: Some writers describe seeing stories rolling out like movies in their heads. Whether or not I reach this level of involvement, imagination does grant me the ability to picture a scene before I write it. Sometimes, I’m stressed and can’t focus. Or I can get in a hurry and would rather not wait for the movie to come fully into focus.
- Sensory: Involving the senses in my writing becomes much easier when I use my imagination. It’s all too easy to insert a sensory placeholder because I’ve been taught I need to include the sense in my writing. A scene becomes far richer if I allow myself to experience it through imagination. Small details I would have missed bring themselves to my attention and work their way naturally into my manuscript.
- Creative: Imagination fleshes out a mental image from something not present or perceived. Self-doubt can make me lose the faith this demands.
Taking all of this into consideration, my definition of imagination becomes: the ability through a decision of my will and an expenditure of my energy while relying upon God to see mental images that engage my senses in a creative story world.
Does this chime with you? Do you have a different definition or imagination? Did a particular point especially speak to you?
©2014 by Janalyn Voigt
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It takes time and energy to develop a plot and create a first draft, but writing a novel doesn’t end there. A writer tells the same story over and over again through each of its revisions. In light of the need to produce excellent manuscripts quickly in order to survive in the publishing wilds, learning to edit well is imperative.