Unlock the Power of Imagination

Unlock the Power of ImaginationIt’s almost miraculous how a book can unlock the power of imagination.

Few things fire the imagination like a story. Whether you read it for yourself or someone else tells you a tale, humans are so hardwired for story we can’t help but imagine the people and events. The best stories unlock the power of imagination within the reader.

Now here’s the kicker: that power is unique and unpredictable within every reader.

You Make the Movie in Your Head

Consider: every reader interprets the book through their own experience. No two readers, not even identical twins, have the exact same life experience. Every description, action and line of dialogue is filtered through the reader’s imagination.

I like Brandon Sanderson’s analogy: “I write the script, you make the movie in your head.”

It accounts for the wildly different views of works of fiction; once you hand over the script, every reader makes a different movie in their head.

Some readers engage with a text and make wildly flamboyant, exhilarating experiences for themselves. Others put down the same text after the first scene.

It’s an uncomfortable truth for some writers; “the book belongs to the audience… books are participatory.

Sanderson alights on a truth a lot of authors ignore. However much blood sweat and tears, heart and soul an author pours into their work, it is the reader who brings it to life. Or not.

New Faces

Sanderson acknowledges the limits of the author’s power. As a reader, “I get to imagine what this character looks like.”

It’s why we each have a different evocation of Dickens’ London streets, or a different ideal of Lizzie and Mr Darcy (collect a sticker).

Let me give you a description of my protagonist.

“The tall Roamer girl walked gracefully through the crowd, her darker skin contrasting with the pale Northerners around her. The light shone on the complex black braid hanging down her back. Most were struck by her deep green eyes unknown to the brown-eyed Roamer people.”

From that description you’re going to imagine someone very different from me. Even if I go into detail about the set of her jaw, the shape of her nose or the expression about her mouth, we’d generate very different e-fit images of this mystery girl.

For contemporary pieces, some authors might cheat and say “people often mistook her for Angelina Jolie,” or this-or-that Kardashian. That assumes every reader knows what Angelina Jolie and assorted Kardashians look like. Those who don’t will make up some media glamour-puss.

Now I’ve put some images in your head, you think you know what Jovanka looks like. She doesn’t. Not in my head. Perhaps the name will conjure up yet another image of the character? What does a ‘Jovanka’ look like in your mind, versus a Lizzie or an Elizabeth? How about the very formal ‘Mr Darcy?’ You know his full name is Fitzwilliam Darcy? What does Fitzwilliam look like? Fitz or Will to his friends? William to his mother? What did Jane Austen’s readers imagine of the very aristocratic, beyond-wealthy Fitzwilliam Darcy? How does he soften and change from the beginning to the end of Pride and Prejudice?

Transfer of Power

It’s something every author has to understand. We don’t have Inception to immerse others in our dreams. When you hand over the book to the reader, when you make it immersive, it’s no longer in your imagination. It’s in theirs. It’s out of your hands. Forget about the author’s vision, or the Author’s Intention. This is your job, to unlock the power of imagination.

2 thoughts on “Unlock the Power of Imagination”

    1. “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
      Carl Sagan

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