Category Archives: Imagination

Musings on Storytelling

Story inspiration comes from everywhere. A trip to the grocery story. A conversation with a friend. People watching at a restaurant. But one of the most inspiring sources are often the stories I love most.

Obviously, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has had a huge impact on the stories I write, but it’s certainly not the only source. In fact, right now I’m playing through one of them: The Legend of Zelda. (And, yes, this means that Breath of the Wild is shaping up to be better than I anticipated.)

Like with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and so many other great tales, it all starts with someone who starts off (usually) rather ordinary, finds that he (or she) is the answer to a desperate need, and goes on an adventure to fulfill that need. The call to adventure, the selflessness of heroism, that touch of magic… they’re all the things that I love in a story.

One of the things that I think is most interesting about Zelda is the storytelling. According to The Hyrule Historia, there is a timeline and the stories do fit together. However, I have always had my own view on it.

Cultures around the world tell the same story over and over again. Tales of creation and great floods, faithfulness and betrayal, heroes and sacrifice. And that’s how I’ve always seen these stories. The hero and the princess face incredible evil and defeat it. It looks different every time it’s told, but it’s always, in essence, the same story. And that’s okay.

After all, that’s what we do. The stories come in different shapes and sizes, but most of the stories are retellings of things that have been told for years.

Years ago, I worried about this, but a CS Lewis quote fixed me of that fast: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

That, and seeing that Zelda tells the same story over and over again and somehow it never gets old.

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Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Cactus

The theme is cactus, yet somehow everything always takes a sharp turn towards cats. Maybe I really am obsessed.

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In case the story above is too small to read clearly (which it probably is), here it is:

Once upon a time, there was a cactus. It sat in a sunny dining room window. From there, it watched the world. It watched the cars and people who passed down the sidewalk. It watched the family in whose house it lived and who always watered it just the right amount. But it especially liked to watch the cat. The cat was a strange creature that liked to spend its time up high, like the cactus. But unlike the cactus, it never minded its own business. It climbed on everything (even the counters when the family wasn’t looking), it chewed on the curtains, and it knocked things over. The cactus dreaded the cat coming onto its shelf.

One day, though, that’s exactly what happened. With an unexpectedly graceful leap, the cat landed right beside the cactus. Since this creature seemed to defy all the laws of physics, the cactus expected the cat might try to eat it and dreaded that it might succeed. Instead, the cat nestled in closer than anything had to the cactus, started purring, and watched the world go by.


Rip It, Write It, Draw It: Cats

Since NaNoWriMo has been on my mind for the past month, it’s been a while since I’ve actually done an exercise. When I flipped through in search of one, this caught my eye: Fill the page with as many words that rhyme with “cat” as you can think of.

Rhyming has never really been my forte, but I decided to give it a shot. It was definitely harder than I was expecting. And I decided that it wouldn’t be fair to give myself an indefinite amount of time, so after about 20 minutes of pondering on and off, I set it aside.

Of course, rhyming gets easier when you remember the old poet’s trick of sight and slant rhyme. Sight rhyme is when you use words that look like they should rhyme, even though they actually don’t when said. And slant… well, those are the ones that kinda, sorta rhyme. Like orange and door hinge…

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As I was looking for options, I also remembered something that my linguistics professor taught me back in college. Our ears are trained to either listen to the final consonant or the vowel in a word. Depending on what you hear, you might choose your slant rhymes differently. For example, if someone asks for a “copy” shop, there’s a possibility that someone might point you in the direction of a “coffee” shop because that’s what they heard. So, I played with that a little bit too.

Oh, and remember back in the 90’s when people tried to make phat into a compliment? I got a good laugh out of adding that in there.

Can you think of more words that rhyme (truly, slant, sight, or otherwise) with cat? Are you good at writing, or are you bad at it like me?

 


Getting the Creative Juices Flowing

The old saying always goes that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. While that certainly describes my life of late, I find that when the going gets tough, rest and rejuvenation is more important than ever. Few things are as refreshing for me as exercising my creativity and imagination.

That’s why I picked something up during my most recent Barnes and Nobel stop: a book of prompts promising to get some creative juices going.

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I was sort of looking for a Wreck This Journal, but when I couldn’t find one, this caught my eye. It’s the same idea, but I knew it might be the one for me when one of the pages said to have tea on it. Right up my alley, considering that tea is part of my daily routine.

With 240 different prompts to complete, that’s nearly a year of madness. Sounds like the perfect way to add some randomness to my creative routine.

Have you done a book with different prompts like this before? What are your favorite ways to get your creative juices flowing?


Three Characters

Over the past two weeks, I’ve noticed a new fad on Facebook. Friends choose three different fictional characters that they feel describe them as a person and then post a picture of each character. I’ve nodded and giggled at the ones I’ve seen so far because they’ve seemed so true to each person.

Though I’m not sure if I would actually post one, I started the inevitable wondering about what I would post if I were to take up the challenge. How would I describe myself in three characters? That answer turns out to be much harder than I anticipated.

It’s easy to fall back on favorite characters. Usually, something about those characters resonates with the soul, sometimes because they are similar. But sometimes they are more the epitomes of what I hope to be.

When I was a tween, I loved watching The Crocodile Hunter. Steve Irwin is no fictional character, but I watched each episode with great interest. It’s not because I was especially interested in catching dangerous animals or khaki. It wasn’t even the Australian accent, which I loved. It’s because he had something I felt that I didn’t: courage. He didn’t bat an eye at picking up a venomous snake or leaping on top of an unwieldy crocodile. He knew what he was doing, and he did it fearlessly.

I wanted that. So I began imitating him in my own way. I would catch the bugs and other critters that came into the house that used to send me onto a chair in fear. I learned how to call alligators (and was rather successful at it). And whenever I faced a truly frightening situation, I would ask myself how Steve Irwin would handle it and proceed from there. Slowly, it changed me and I gained the courage that I wanted so desperately.

There’s something to be said for having a model to follow. Fictional or not, knowing someone else’s story can give that needed encouragement to make it through or become something better.

So how many of my favorite fictional characters are actually like me and how many are what I aspire to become? I’m not sure. Maybe some of them are a combination of both. And maybe that’s okay.

And if I had to pick three? I’m still not sure. There are so many stories and so many characters that deserve some consideration. Inevitably, I’ll decide on three eventually, but that is not this day.

If you had to pick three characters to describe yourself, who would you pick? Or are there too many choices for you, like there are for me?


Portrait of a Kitty

Some people tease that I’m obsessed with my cat. I guess there might be some truth to that. I end up talking about him often, but one of the most frequent things I end up doing is drawing him. That’s not to say that I’m particularly skilled at art by any means, but it’s relaxing, enjoyable, and gives my creativity a different outlet so that’s good enough for me.

Since my Surface has its accompanying pen, I decided to use it to play with the Fresh Paint program and try my hand at “painting.” Okay, so it’s not really painting, but considering that I don’t have a canvas, any brushes, or paints, it’s the next best thing. And there’s an undo button, which comes in handy when one isn’t the most adept artist. (I use it all the time.)

So below is my most recent cat art.

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Do you enjoy creating art? If you’re a writer, what other creative outlets do you have?


How to Find out If You’re a Gollum (or, On Meeting Your Characters in Real Life)

One of my favorite movies of all time is Stranger Than Fiction. While I could cite all of the usual reasons for liking a film, the primary reason is because it took a question I’ve always had as a writer and brought it to life: What if our characters really are real?

(As a side note, I remember this movie coming out as I was on the edge of adulthood. Now I realize it’s been ten years. Approaching 30 is a different world, but I like it.)

For most of my life, it’s been a passing question. However, writing mostly fantasy and sci-fi meant that the situations I wrote about weren’t based in the world we know so I didn’t think much about it. Even coming across someone with the same name as a character was rare for quite a while thanks to my love of obscure names.

I do remember the first time, though, that I met someone with a character’s name. While I was volunteering with the kids at my church, I met someone named Kelvin — the name of the prince in the novel I’ve been working on since middle school. Since I was in 9th grade at most, I wasn’t far enough into science to know that kelvins are a unit of measurement named after someone. As far as I knew, it was quite obscure. Hearing that name said aloud by someone other than me was a strange experience.

Later in high school, I read in a biography that Tolkien wondered about having the same experience: receiving a letter from an S. Gamgee or, worse, meeting Gollum. Evidently, I’m not the only one who’s ever thought about it. (Of course, that was later confirmed by Strange Than Fiction itself.)

Which leads me to a post that I recently read on Facebook about how to tell if you’re in one of Tolkien’s books. (Apologies for one part with strong language. I don’t think Tolkien would approve either.)

As much as I’ve thought about whether or not my characters were real, I never thought much about being in someone else’s story quite like this. Maybe I am a lost Tolkien character after all.

Have you ever met someone with one of your characters’ names? Do you ever wonder what it’d be like if your characters and the worlds you create were real? Are you secretly a Tolkien character?