Exercising imagination

CTRandall

I have my very own plant pot!
Supporter
Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
412
Location
North-east England
#1
imagination.jpg


This is a follow-on from HareBrain's thread about critical choice and the eight-point arc for a story. Several people expressed the opinion that this kind of analysis interfered with their creativity or imagination. So my question is, how do you go about stretching, exercising and pushing the boundaries of your imagination?

I find consideration of plot elements, character types, scene structure and such to be a good tool for identifying what I've done In a story and then forcing myself to do something different. For example, I recently realized that I'd never written a story with an unreliable narrator, so I sat down and wrote one. The choice of narrator shaped everything from the basic plot elements to character interactions and that forced me to write in a different way. It forced me to be more imaginative.

I'm definitely not saying that's the only way to approach this. I also work at the level of "this scene is boring, how can I give it some punch". For me, however, that method won't get me very far unless I've first done some experimenting with my characters and world.

I eagerly await your pearls--golden apples, even--of wisdom!
 

sknox

Member and remember
Joined
Mar 25, 2013
Messages
786
Location
Idaho
#2
I've never understood how anything can constrain a person's imagination. I mean, it's my brain. I think things. I've never had trouble thinking things; my big challenge is narrowing down the things I think into a coherent narrative.

I long ago stopped trying to decide if I was creative or imaginative or whatever. Those are adjectives of convenience, but they don't actually define anything. Most often I find that people use words like creative or original or imaginative to mean "something I personally have never read (or done)." Which is fine, but doesn't describe a thing or a process that can be taught or cultivated because it's more about the reader than it is about the author.
 

Steve Harrison

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 9, 2014
Messages
196
Location
Sydney, Australia
#3
I don't think about creativity at all. I come up with a story, run it over in my head until I'm convinced the beginning and end are solid and there are enough plot points in between to sustain a novel. Then I write, trusting that the story will hang together and some engaging characters will appear once I start.

Creativity is a given. Regardless of whether the end result is good, bad or somewhere in between, I produce a unique novel in my natural 'voice' without considering anything but the task at hand.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, but when I started writing, if I allowed myself to think about being creative it actually killed my creativity. These days I let my subconscious take care of all that stuff.
 
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
455
Location
Nirvāṇa
#4
I'm not a professional like many of you, yet what works for me is selecting a basic protagonist, basically a real person at a very specific stage of their life (how they were, demeanor, quirks, etc.), an initial scene, and an ultimate ending. From there I just let it flow.

The protagonist will be refined as I go along, the scenes flow naturally from one to another as the character progresses, fails, wins, meets this person or does that, and often the end goal will become refined, or in some cases even change as a better idea pops into my head.

Past that I just write and build as I go along. The idea of sitting down and selecting and determining hard and fixed constraints on anything messes with the flow.

Then again, perhaps that is why I'm an amateur ;)

K2
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
16,532
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
#6
Much of my work is funded. One of the key components of that funding is that it must stretch me as a writer and develop me. So right at the start of a project I have to ask myself what is challenging within it. For my last one it was the combining of myth with crime and mystery elements. For the current one it’s to do with a representational mirror of NI.

After that, I just trust my subconscious. I don’t write books that fit easy boxes so there must be something original within them!
 

Biskit

Cat whisperer
Joined
Nov 23, 2011
Messages
667
Location
Sitting in the sun (between the rain storms)
#7
So my question is, how do you go about stretching, exercising and pushing the boundaries of your imagination?
I don't, or not deliberately. Weird stuff goes through my head, I follow where it goes and write it down; people find it entertaining.
Trying to plan, analyse or anything else takes the fun out of it. OK, I'm pretty sure I do plan, analyse etc, because that's the way I am, but I prefer to leave it to go on my subconscious, safely tucked away where it won't annoy the rest of me.
 

HareBrain

Bunny of Wonder
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Oct 13, 2008
Messages
9,952
Location
West Sussex, UK
#8
I'd have to say the same as others. My subconscious does the work; I just receive its reports on my desk and use what I think suitable.

How to make the subconscious more effective is a useful question, though. I have used shamanic journeying occasionally in figuring out where a story might go, but not often.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,299
#9
Like other posters, I don't do anything deliberately. I tend to mull things over for a while before committing them to paper. Two techniques that I've used (again, not consciously) are deliberately avoiding what's been done before and seeing a concept through to its weird logical conclusion.

Re the logical conclusion thing: say you are an intelligent being that evolved from a (Hollywood concept of) a lemming. What does daily life involve? Well, you are obviously obsessed with jumping off cliffs, which seems like something to aspire to. You can probably hibernate for a long time, which is useful on long space journeys. You keep your rations in your cheeks. And so on. It's really a reduction to absurdity of an idea, and it works very well for Space Captain Smith.

The avoiding what's been done before is just being aware (often consciously) of what the cliched route would be and deliberately not taking it. I wouldn't make this an absolute rule, but it does have a useful steering effect and can push the writing into more interesting territory.
 

Mouse

ejtett.weebly.com
Joined
Jun 2, 2006
Messages
9,870
Location
in your face
#10
I have weird dreams pretty much guaranteed every night so I figure if that's the sort of stuff coming out of my subconscious, I'll just leave it to the subconscious while writing. Hence, I don't over analysis it or think about it too much. If I start thinking too much, I start stumbling.

Most of the time when I start writing, I don't have an idea, I just have a sense of something. So what's inspired me I don't really know. Maybe something in a TV show or film, or book, or something I've seen while walking the dog, or something I've experienced at work.

So how do I go about stretching, exercising and pushing the boundaries of my imagination? I go to sleep, I guess.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
22,159
Location
Highlands
#12
I find consideration of plot elements, character types, scene structure and such to be a good tool for identifying what I've done In a story and then forcing myself to do something different.
I think this is the crux of it - if someone is writing organically (a "gardener", I think is the current term) then afterwards being able to understand your own writing in technical terms could help to identify weaknesses and correct them. Additionally, if an editor comes back with technical criticisms, you're in a better position to understand what you need to do if you understand the technicalities being mentioned in the first place. :)

Alternatively, if plotting a novel from scratch, it can help to have an idea of key plot points you might expect in the story development, even if you haven't imagined them - and even if you end up not using such points anyway!

In the end, writing tools are tools, but not a proxy for lack of imagination. :)
 

Serendipity

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 16, 2013
Messages
842
Location
In Existence Somewhere
#13
There are known ways to increase creativity - changing your set habits, for instance.

View attachment 49175
I once gave a talk on idea generation mechanisms to, let's just call them an interested audience. There are certain mechanisms that can generate ideas or force people to generate ideas. But the important thing is that people tend to prefer using one, maybe two, mechanisms over the others because it suits their personality/ the way they work better. Which naturally leads to why people are always searching for a way to enhance their creativity. They are really trying to find the right way to work for them.

So yes, the list Jo has produced on this thread acts as catalysts to producing creativity. Some on the list are more pertinent to a given idea generation mechanism than another. Others to a different mechanism and so on.

But the bottom line is that once you find the right creativity mechanism that works for you, you can force creativity.
 
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
455
Location
Nirvāṇa
#15
There are known ways to increase creativity - changing your set habits, for instance.
I'm going to suggest something(s) not on your list. Get out into the world more. Experience nature, dense cities, travel to new places even if it is just the next town over, and most of all, meet new people and learn their interests.

You mention broadening 'your' interests, which is great, yet your mind will never diverge in new directions and expand unless you 'look for the interesting aspects of things... that don't interest you.'

Many good writers 'I suspect,' are rather *insert appropriate word here* believing that 'they' have a great idea, 'they' have a great story to tell and that 'they' have somehow cued in on some nugget that everyone else missed. In contrast, I would guess that great writers, instead see wonder in the vast world around them and wish to point out those sometimes tiny, ignored or taken for granted subtle things that really are the foundations of inspiration.

As open minded as we may be, our own experience and hence viewpoint is specifically shaped and limited. True expansion of ourselves, I believe, comes from looking out beyond our own imaginations.

K2
 

Phyrebrat

ba-Ba-ba-brat
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
4,136
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
#17
I've never understood how anything can constrain a person's imagination. I mean, it's my brain. I think things. I've never had trouble thinking things; my big challenge is narrowing down the things I think into a coherent narrative.
Without wanting to sound like a semantics fascist, I can't agree with this. If you struggle with anxiety, apprehension, low mood, PTSD or depression, your access to your creativity is very difficult.

I long ago stopped trying to decide if I was creative or imaginative or whatever. Those are adjectives of convenience, but they don't actually define anything. Most often I find that people use words like creative or original or imaginative to mean "something I personally have never read (or done)." Which is fine, but doesn't describe a thing or a process that can be taught or cultivated because it's more about the reader than it is about the author.
I would argue also that there are definitely creative people compared to those who are more scientific (Is that the antonym? :eek: cos, for a Sci Fi site for writers, that seems implausible ;) ) but that is from my own experience of life and teaching art subjects. However, there's a lil place for everyone ;)

Nice <adds to bookmarks for later>

I'd have to say the same as others. My subconscious does the work; I just receive its reports on my desk and use what I think suitable.

How to make the subconscious more effective is a useful question, though. I have used shamanic journeying occasionally in figuring out where a story might go, but not often.
I'm probably more like this and Mouse below. I was going to post about Remote Viewing and meditation techniques where you have to balance left-right brain activity. When you get that engine idling nicely, it's a floodgate.

I have weird dreams pretty much guaranteed every night so I figure if that's the sort of stuff coming out of my subconscious, I'll just leave it to the subconscious while writing. Hence, I don't over analysis it or think about it too much. If I start thinking too much, I start stumbling.

Most of the time when I start writing, I don't have an idea, I just have a sense of something. So what's inspired me I don't really know. Maybe something in a TV show or film, or book, or something I've seen while walking the dog, or something I've experienced at work.

So how do I go about stretching, exercising and pushing the boundaries of my imagination? I go to sleep, I guess.
Me too! Sleeping and napping especially (where we enter a different type of sleepiness) inform most of my ideas. Walking with Kate Bush or certain gaming music in my earphones inspires me unfailingly.

There are known ways to increase creativity - changing your set habits, for instance.

View attachment 49175
Y'see to me, much of this is corporate training claptrap. Broadening your interests and focusing on your senses are the only two things here that really relate to the nebulous notion of the imagination/creativity. I see the wisdom in them in terms of productivity, but not the quicksilver flash that can really inspire. I mean, I could post that list as 'How to turn into Stephen Fry' and it would work ;)

What's really important though, is that if Jo sits down with this list and I sit down with a Jameson and consulate, and we both end up with our Pulitzers or Man Booker, (Sexy Space Pilots in Haunted House in the Kuiper belt? ;) ), then it's proof that creative engagement is about our own response to certain things. In that sense, we can give ideas, but must remember not to get hung up when it doesn't 'work'. As said wisely above (by someone else, btw, not me) find your own method and explore that. I know I shan't be using @Vaz 's 'listen to Swedish Death Metal' technique ;)

Walks by a lake or river - definitely not the sea, though - usually inspire me with a wealth of ideas...as long as Kate Bush is playing in my earphones.;)

pH
 

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
Supporter
Joined
Oct 5, 2011
Messages
16,532
Location
blah - flags. So many flags.
#18
Ah, but it is corporate training claptrap. That's exactly what it's used for. It's not for me - I am lucky to be creative and believe that I am - it's for those who don't believe they CAN create.

There are loads - people who won't speak up at brainstorming, for fear they'll be seen as stupid, or who sit in a little office all day not questioning. And, of course, on a list like this it's dry. But when it's done with people, along with a little exercise (I quite often use @Hex's Dream Factory story for it, with her permission) then it becomes not corporate claptrap but actually a starting point to say 'you might not be as uncreative as you think.' Because belief is part of it. As is doing things differently to activate parts of your brain (2), or actually allowing yourself time to be creative, instead of saying it's silly (3) or learning to zone into your senses and free your mind from the thoughts that keep you writing.

Given your post above, about people who can't create for variant reasons, including being down, stuck in a place that stops them, or anything else, I can't see what's in that list that couldn't be useful for someone who finds it hard to believe, to make time, or even to start trying to create.

It's easy to put down corporate claptrap because we've all been to courses that are dull and not challenging, and tick by numbers. But it doesn't mean that, delivered well, with a person-centric course, they can't be relevant. And something like this is the lightbulb more often than you'd think it is. :)
 

Phyrebrat

ba-Ba-ba-brat
Supporter
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Messages
4,136
Location
In your bedroom wardrobe...
#19
Given your post above, about people who can't create for variant reasons, including being down, stuck in a place that stops them, or anything else, I can't see what's in that list that couldn't be useful for someone who finds it hard to believe, to make time, or even to start trying to create.
Because I think it comes across as shallow, Social Media-esque, and requires a fundamental strength of character in the first place, to merely implement it. You're right inasmuch as focusing on self-belief (for example) can improve the climate of your emotional and mental - and therefore creative state - but it's a bullet point thing that offers no depth. Okay, if that bullet point thing leads to someone going to the doc and getting referred to CBT or something, then fair enough, but I'm guessing that it's a numbered list because we now live in a bite-size junket society where attention spans are so short.

You and I have both been invoved in State Education for a long time now, and we've both bemoaned this kind of approach to educating our kids. Is that disdain not applicable to us as creative adults? I know it's an unfair question perhaps, as you didn't write the list. Don't you find in our hopelessly damned, automation-obsessed society that these crib sheets are becoming more and more common?

I could give that to a kid and say 'what are the ten best ways to augment creatvity?' and give A's out willy-nilly as everyone recounts it acurately by rote.

Not through experiencing the suggestions.

For those kind of lists to help, they have to be mined and interrogated in great depth, often as a life-change, and those things don't happen everyday.

Re education, I don't think we do anyone any favours by encouraging something that's not even dormant or latent. I've been teaching long enough to know that no matter how many graphs, diagrams, powerpoints or bullet lists we give some people, they're just not cut out for that 'x'.

How many times over the years have you seen a new member join Chrons and ask the kind of questions - or repeatedly resist the advice we've given - that tells you they're never going to finish a draft let alone get a book on the shelves? Not to be mean, but it's just a fact in the same way you know that lame gazelle is going to be the one that get's chomped on.

If you don't have the chops for something that's competitive, you really shouldn't be wasting your time. You can, but that will be a frustrating experience. That's my opinion.

pH

Edit: Sorry, Jo, just read my post and it really comes across as if I'm bashing you! I'm not!
 

Similar threads

Top