Time to buff up your Writer Imagination Muscles
An editor and author provides advice on th eessential storytelling question.
Would you feel better or worse if I told you I get rejections? In my pre-indie days, I
I'd actually experienced An Idea That Wasn't A Story. Too bad I didn't recognize this. To my credit, I honed that nightmare scene till the impact was razor sharp. Too bad I didn't have much to go with it. I figured my boffo opener would carry the rest. My agent disagreed, and pointed out that, after the boffo had passed, pacing lost steam, story urgency waned, my heroine lacked a compelling voice. I'd built up expectations with my opener, then squandered them.
I'd leapfrogged over the essential storytelling question. "What am I going to write about?" as filmmaker David Lynch, author and director of some of the most imaginative screen scenarios ever, says. "Ideas dictate everything. You have to be true to that or you're dead."
Yet, there's always pressure to write what will sell. I'd been piling that pressure on myself when I conceived my boffo opening with no follow-through. I was writing pyrotechnics I thought might turn my agent on, instead of seeking the true conflicted heart of my story and letting my imagination lead me onward from that place.
I call it the Idea from Heaven. The idea that makes the heart of a story pound. I could have taken my nightmare inspiration, then coaxed depth and richness from it to create an Idea from Heaven. I forgot I possessed the power to accomplish that. What, specifically, should I have remembered to do?
Imagine that the imagination is a muscle. To make and keep the imaginative muscle equal to the rigors of storytelling, we must give it a daily workout. If I'd gone from terrifying dream to imagination exercise mat, instead of straight into writing, the results would have been very different. Here's the five-step exercise I should have done. You should do it too.
Step 1. Find your most fertile imagination time. For me, that's morning, immediately after waking, close to the state that produced my terrifying dream. Pen and pad are ready. I believe imagination, and writing voice, are best accessed in longhand. BTW I used to think night was my most imaginative time, but found that being tired encouraged me to natter on way too much.
Step 2. Find the idea recording method that works best for you. Notebook, cards, a voice recording device, which works well for many verbal people. Try different possibilities.
Step 3. Pose yourself a question. "Where does the story go from here?" Or, "What does my main character do next?" Fashion your most pressing question, take your time, but don't obsess over it. Trust your writerly instinct to know what your story needs. Use a current writing project as subject ground. If you don't have a current writing project, get one.
Step 4. Come up with answers to the question you've posed. Never settle for the first idea that comes. Keep thinking. Push yourself to the more original response, the less expected reaction. Burrow deeper into the situation and the characters. Encourage your mind to run wild.
Step 5. Record each idea as it comes. Limit the exercise to 10 or 15 minutes. Don't censor your responses in any way, like "That's too outlandish," or "This won't work." Record everything, without critique or evaluation. Time limit ends. Put down your pen or turn off the recorder.
The Crucial Cool Down. Sit for a moment and take note of how you feel. Maybe stimulated, full of mental energy, ready to spin off still more ideas in a cannonade of creativity. The imagination muscle has had a good workout for sure. Do this every day. You'll find yourself being more creative than ever before, and enjoying it too.
I robbed myself of that enjoyment when I neglected to take time for this exercise as preparation for developing my story idea. My flabby imagination muscle failed me because I failed it. Learn from my negative example. Take power over your own creative laziness, and give your story idea the strength it needs to succeed.
For more insights into writing and publishing – Visit my blog at www.aliceorrbooks.com.
About Alice Orr
Alice Orr is author of 16 novels, 3 novellas, a memoir and No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells. Hero in the Mirror: How to Write Your Best Story of You is in progress. A former book editor and literary agent, Alice now writes full-time. Her latest novel is A Time of Fear and Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book 5. Find all of Alice Orr's books on Amazon. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her beloved husband Jonathan in New York City.
Author Website www.aliceorrbooks.com
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