Writers often draw us into the worlds and characters that burst from their imaginations. These “made-up” worlds are reason for some to shun this or that genre because they are imaginary. The truth, though, is that authors aren’t writing imaginary stories. Alister McGrath, in his biography of C.S. Lewis, explains:
Narnia is imaginative, not an imaginary, world. Lewis was quite clear that a distinction had to be drawn between those ideas. The “imaginary” is something that has been falsely imagined, having no counterpart in reality. Lewis regards such an invented reality as opening the way to delusion. The “imaginative” is something produced by the human mind as it tries to respond to something greater than itself…to “communicate more Reality to us.”
Lewis would use his imaginative world to explore serious themes like “origins of evil, nature of faith, and the human desire for God” — not unlike most writers have grand ideas of deep thoughts woven through their narrative.
Quite often their starting point to accomplish this is surprisingly very simple. Narnia started with “an image of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels through a snowy wood.” Tolkien scrawled on a paper, “In a hole in he ground there lived a hobbit,” after the idea popped in his head and he “did not know why” it had. From these humble origins, grand tales came to life.
What lives in your imagination, ready to inspire, entertain and challenge?
A few posts ago, I wrote on authors having a little fun with their books. Sure, every genre has its expectations as far as realism, details and plausibility. There will always be those “experts” that catch you on every “mistake” – whether you intended it or not. Most authors don’t mind getting corrections, but being an writer also means knowing when to deviate from the rules. For goodness sake, you’re writing about trolls or mutants or unstoppable heroes. Even when grounding it in some sort of plausibility, there’s still a bit of implausibility built in. Sure, if you’re writing The Hunt for Red October, your submarines cannot suddenly turn invisible or fly. Writing with that level of realism isn’t easy, though authors like Tom Clancy did it all the time. Even writers of techno thrillers and “hard sci-fi” don’t always follow the rules. A.E. van Vogt wrote many years ago (1952):
At the moment I regret none of the liberties I took with science in my science fiction. There was always a wealth of fact, enough, so it seemed to me, to carry the fantasy element. Even then, I rationalized what I did. I told myself whenever I had doubts: “The Story’s the thing.” I still believe that.
So, you see, being a writer is to know when to break the rules and, perhaps, make it seem like you aren’t breaking them. Or you write your story no matter what it takes, because ultimately it’s not realism even in the most realistic books that catch readers.