Sunday, January 29, 2012

Imagine That !

Having imagination, it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that, if you were unimaginative, would take you only a minute. Or you might not write the paragraph at all.

Franklin P. Adams, Half a Loaf, 1927

I’m rather fond of this quote. I read it often. It reminds me that only a few writers sit down and compose a novel the way Mozart composed a symphony – as if taking dictation from God. And for those writers who DO write like that please keep quiet about it. Things could get ugly.

Imagination is a funny thing. It comes in all sorts of weird ways to equally weird people. Hey, if you’re a writer and you’re not weird you’re just not trying hard enough. Writers have been odd since the first time Grogg picked up a stick and drew pictures on a cave wall. The only reason there are no romance novels on those cave walls is because Grogg’s Mom wiped them off with a wet loincloth and clocked him upside the head with a mastodon bone for drawing dirty pictures.

And imagination is often more fun in a group. The most famous plotting retreat in history produced perhaps the most well-known classic horror story of all time – Frankenstein. Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Pollidori were stuck in a big half empty house during a miserable winter and after much wine and God knows what else (Byron was there. Hello? Some of his antics make Charlie Sheen look like a choir boy!) Frankenstein was born. Well, not really born, but you get the picture. I don’t know if they used Stephen King’s “What if” method or Walt Disney’s “Why not,” but it worked. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for that weekend!

My third manuscript, The Price of a Gentleman, came out of a spoof writing contest on the Romance Bandits blog. I think we were asked to take a movie and turn it into a historical romance novel. I picked Sunset Boulevard. That’s an old black and white film, for you young people out there, starring Alabama’s own Tallulah Bankhead and William Holden. I think I even had the Bankhead character say something like “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Gainsborough.” But the funny thing is, that spoof got me thinking. And thinking. And pretty soon I had the first three chapters of The Price of a Gentleman.

Where does your imagination come from? And where does it take you? Is the journey a ride on the bullet train or a crawl on the mule train? What do you do to spark it? Is it better in a group? Come on and dish! What inspires you to write? And have you ever spent a night sitting around a scary house with a bunch of writer friends drinking wine and plotting your stories?

15 comments:

Lauren said...

Wonderful post!
My imagination is probably much like an other author, in that it seems to be its own sentient being. I used to be a very deeply imaginative child with the games I played. I would read a book and decide I liked something about it and my next game I played was sort of inspired by that kernal of an idea. When I got older I started writing these games out to keep them concrete and so I couldn't forget them. Now I spend nearly every waking moment talking to my imagination, running scenes and dialogue through my head constantly, all day long. it can be rather exhausting, but at the end of the day, I feel happy with the ideas that have come from such an extensive interaction with my imagination.

Louisa Cornell said...

That's great, Lauren! I believe the imagination is like any muscle. The more you exercise it the stronger it gets! Yours must be Lou Ferigno strong by now! (He played The Incredible Hulk in the original television series for all you youngsters on the loop!)

Marie Higgins said...

My imagination comes from dreams. Now, before you start thinking of me as a pervert...let me explain. (lol) I read tons of romance novels and watch many chick-flicks. Romance is in my blood and I love it. So naturally, when I sleep at night, I'm going to dream romance. I don't dream the whole story, but just enough to have me questioning when I awake - what are the characters' goals / motivations / conflict. From that point, then a story begins in my head. And sometimes it doesn't. But usually, my stories come from my dreams.

Great blog post!

Louisa Cornell said...

How cool is that! I have dreamed bits and pieces of scenes from my novels. And I know a couple of authors who dream an entire novel! But I think your method is pretty scientific actually. You read romance novels and watch romantic films and once you go to sleep all of that stuff has to bubble up to the top!

M.V.Freeman said...

Louisa,
My imagaination is sparked by the darndest of things, but is fueled by the books I read, the movies I watch and the people I am around.

Then my brain shakes up all of that and I dream. Sometimes my stories come from my dreams--sometimes, like you, they come from what if questions...

The only time my imagination is silent is when I am highly stressed.

How about you? Is your imagination affected by stress or is it fueled by it?

Excellent post! :)

Christine said...

I love this post!! Imagination... I'm a Disney girl. I always thing about the right in Disney's Epcot about Imagination when I think about it.

It comes from curiosity and the deep well within which asks questions and tries to solve them all the time. Imagination wakes me up and stirs my soul at odd hours It strikes when I am washing my hair or driving or mulling. Nothing is sacred, yet everything is divine!

Thanks for a great thought provoking post!

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, Mary. I know what you mean about imagination being sparked by the oddest things. I never really know when something is going to hit me and I think "There's a story in there somewhere!" Stress tends to shut my imagination down, but fortunately it also tends to pull me out of my stress if I really give it free rein!

Louisa Cornell said...

Christine ! "Nothing is sacred but everything is divine." I LOVE that! Because the world has grown so big, many people don't realize what a visionary Walt Disney was. And I think every writer has to be a bit of a visionary to survive in this business!

Lexi said...

I think I fall into the weird category. No idea where mine comes from. I'm a people watcher. They are an endless source of inspiration, and not always good!

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Lexi! Nothing weird about that at all! I have always said who needs reality television when the real world is so much more entertaining, morose and just plain bizarre! Especially in the South! You know the old saying "Don't ask a Southerner if there is insanity in their family. Just ask which side its on!"

Cari Hislop said...

Like Lauren, my imagination is almost a seperate entity. It's like a cat bringing me endless gifts. I have a Story Idea folder where I note them down even if they're not stories or genres I would normally write.

Over the years I have had the occasional story-dream, but they're never "romances". They're usually murder mysteries or Sci-Fi (which I do read, but not as often as romances).

The strangest phenomenon (produced by my imagination) occurs when I'm otherwise mentally engaged. The first time it happened I was sitting on the couch engrossed in an Agatha Christie short story. I read the words 'a specialist in unhappiness' and this story-vision of a Regency Romance exloded into my brain. I could see the characters in a room and hear them arguing. I didn't make it up, it just showed up. It was weird! I sat there for a few mintues thinking, 'What the heck was that?'. The manuscript is still unfinished, but the characters have showed up in other stories. When these characters start talking I have to run to keep up! I don't know where they came from, but I hope they come back and help me finish their story!

Liese Sherwood-Fabre said...

I have used the simple question "Why?" When I've heard of something in the news, I wonder "why would someone do something like that?" This, of course, leads to motivation and all the backstory.

magician said...

My imagination and dreams are always such a melting pot...but I'm loving it and trying to keep writing them all down for those days I lack inspiration.

Katherine Bone said...

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during the winter with Byron, or with Poe, the Bronte's, Austen or Heyer. Watching the masters at work would be very cool.

I love the movie Morning Star and seeing Keats creating his poetry. That movie was wonderfully made. ;)

What sets my imagination soaring? Books, images from history, people in photographs (especially old ones), movies and, most often soundtracks from movies. Soundtracks really get my blood stirring.

My dreams are segmented weirdness. Not much help there. LOL!

Carla Swafford said...

Great post, Louisa. Usually it takes one little thing that I find interesting and before you know it, I've blown it up into the basis of a story.

The question I usually ask myself is, what would I like to see happen next?