Marylu Downing

What to do with a Big Imagination?

As a writer with a big imagination I am always creating a situation, characters, or a plot.  I sometimes hear a beginning sentence in my head and watch a scene unfold.  Then it expands, or disappears.  If I forget to write it down, unlike Margaret Atwood, the whole possibility for a story can go away.  I have notebooks and every once in a while I open them up and am surprised by the possibilities I find.  Sometimes it rekindles a thread, and I start going further with a couple of beginning sentences.  I will follow the trail until I reach some place. I try not to do this too often when out with friends or when I am hiking or eating lunch at a nice place, but often those very events are what can trigger a story line in my big imagination.

This is how Pink Paisley Scarf began:  I had made a painting of a fallen head, with an open mouth and eyes, like this statue had seen something surprising or shocking.  This was painted around the time of 9-11 in the USA, so it was probably influenced by those traumatic events.  But then I started writing about a woman who came across this head while exploring South American ruins and there came the beginnings of a character, Deirdre Erin, and the Prologue of a book.  I started enhancing and explaining her to myself until she evolved into a largely missing-from-the novel-until-the-end, main character.

Next I imagined a character nearing the end of her youth, and about to enter middle age.  She was dissatisfied and yearning for several things which were not yet in her life. I have daughters and a lot of younger friends in this same situation, so I just pictured the apartment of the character, her clothes, her furniture and her whole situation started to reveal itself.  Elizabeth came into being. And Elizabeth had a sister, and I imagined her sister to be the woman in the prologue.

Sean, Najid, MaeAnn, and Teo all started to gel.  I saw them in my head, like I do when I begin a painting which is a largely made up narrative portrait. I see in a way, that my imagination which leads to a painting, is similar to the one that begins a story.  I am a story-telling painter and I hope that my stories paint pictures for the readers.

If you are like me, a person with a Big Imagination, don’t deny what it brings to you, but milk it for the story you want to write. A colorful inner world has limitless possibilities.  But it must be reined in and woven in a way that will make sense to the reader.  There must be some internal logic, even as Harry Potter’s magical world, had it’s own logic.  Even though this BI can keep me awake at night, and often leads to very strong dreams, I know I have the outlets of art and writing to keep it from interfering with daily life.  I know there are more ideas, thoughts, images to come, just the way those other ones developed.  I am never afraid of the blank canvas, or the empty word document.  Something will emerge.

When people ask, “Where did this idea come from?”  I simply respond now, without embarrassment or explanation:  I am a person with a Big Imagination. It serves me.  And I bet many other writers would agree.

Just as the character Deirdre, with her transitional experience in Paraguay started a whole novel, she transcends and she takes us by the hand, by the moon vines into the story.

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