Imagination vs Realism

Cobbled Courtyards and alleyways…

What immediately comes to mind when you read the above? I think of the 1800s, swirling fogs; the plaintive cry of a lone tug hooting on the River Thames, and – goose-pimples and horror – Jack the Ripper waiting around a corner with a knife and evil intent. But then, I was born in England, my father worked on the river – we lived near enough to hear those mournful cries – and I walked down many of the alleyways the Ripper haunted when I later lived and worked in the East End of London for a few years. So, it was hardly difficult… Plus, I read a lot of Charles Dickens works. Like much writing, it’s when realism and imagination merge, which is my favourite style. For reasons unknown to me, I most enjoy writing stories based on the truth, although I veer off course now and then.

Travel and life experience are invaluable to factual writers, whereby fantasy writing, as the name implies, relies on a vivid imagination, and authors don’t come more imaginative than Franz Kafka who wrote The Metamorphosis. Let’s face it, waking up in the form of a giant cockroach needs serious thought…

Switching to fact and fiction, how easily old, historical cities and towns lend themselves as backdrops for mystery, murder and intrigue. Take Prague with its cobbled squares and enigmatic alley ways. I explored it, fascinated by its architecture when celebrating our Golden wedding anniversary with my husband.

Charles Bridge, surrounding countryside and castle were a joy to behold; the atmosphere so tantalizing and almost as “sliceable” as an elaborate iced cake…

It didn’t seem in the least bit bizarre that we came upon a man sitting by a gutter with a fishing rod down a drain, or to come across a lady with a tortoise on a lead in the local park.

Us writers are such lucky souls… even if some haven’t travelled widely. I believe it was Einstein who said that “Imagination is more important than intelligence.” Bless him. Imagination married to talented writing can produce some amazing works of fantasy. One such author, who creates believable ‘other worlds’ peopled by believable creatures because her writing ability ensnares you with her craft, is Diana Wallace Peach (See below.)*

It is said that most of us have between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day… and we have to make around 35,000 decisions (crikey!). That many of the thoughts and decisions are usually quite mundane is inevitable, but pouncing on the INSPIRED ones, which sometimes creep in like welcome visitors, can be a gift from the muses.

Much like many frequent travellers, I have always kept a daily diary and have more notebooks than money… (being ‘mature’ and not technical I like to SEE my words written in ink, although I do, of course, save them online). Leafing through them is fun – little illegible – and handy if I want a quick quote or reference.

Lately, as I’m still…writing THAT book (you know the one which will make one famous…) I’m more aware than ever of ATMOSPHERE and CHARACTERIZATION, so it’s edit, edit, edit. To write “The wind – wailing like a banshee through the forest,” (Steinbeck?) is obviously more descriptive than just plain “It was windy in the forest,” (Hemingway?) so I’ve got ‘my eagle eyes open.’

Fortunately, whether your reading taste runs to fact or fantasy, the choice is huge. I am an eclectic reader and writer, but there was one book I just couldn’t get into, and that was James Joyce’s Ulysses. He may have been highly intelligent and spoke 17 languages, but he certainly didn’t speak mine.

Of course, whatever style you write in, catchy, character descriptions are valuable to any reader desirous of ‘seeing’ the person on the page. Someone with “Close-set, olive-black eyes, an elongated face and parrot-like nose” is hardly likely to be forgotten…”. “Tall, dark and handsome,” belongs in an old Barbara Cartland novel.

So, all you factual/fantasy writers ‘out there,’ what’s stopping you?!

© Copyright Joy Lennick 2020

 

*Diana Wallace Peach author of:

Liars & Thieves

Sunwielder

Soul Swallower

Catling’s Bane

And several more excellent, books

On characterisation / a poem

Being human, all writers have strengths and weaknesses and enjoy/dislike different aspects of their craft. Plots and sub plots are, of course, vital, as is the balance between action, dialogue, description, etc., but, for me, one of my favourite tasks – or I should say joys – is endowing a character with a personality and physical image through description.

Jean Wilson, a writing colleague, who has now retired to Torquay in the UK, was a favoured member of a small group I take as group leader for the University of the Third Age, in Torrevieja, Spain. Here is her take on a certain man who helped people a short, brilliant, story, she wrote.

‘Harold was a person one endeavoured to avoid if at all possible. He was an intense, blustery man of somewhat large stature, which of itself failed to hide his poorly controlled thinking ability, rather like a failed computer made in a third world country, which hadn’t yet got its act together. He was certainly low in gigabytes, and wanting in RAM. One couldn’t be certain that the keys struck would register as expected and a whole load of input seemed to have no relation to its later output. Harold’s idea of taking a short-cut was to fall down the stairs; and his confidence in himself took no account of the extent of his limitations. Any unfortunate encounter with him left many people feeling immense hopelessness in the integrity of the workings of Nature. Here was a man who told everyone he was a born again Xtian. It didn’t occur to him that he hadn’t been one in the first place, but he liked the reaction it had and tapped one of those pleasure seeking nerves which made him feel good for the day, enjoying the illusion of people’s undivided attention.’

Thanks Jean.

And now, as light relief from the really terrible happenings on this precious, be-devilled planet of ours, is a poem.

Most long-term Facebook, Twitter and Skype users, now and then get odd messages…And when I started receiving several requests from ‘Generals’ to Skype them, it struck me as amusing and didn’t quite ring true. This led to the writing of a poem, which I hope will make you giggle or grin…

TO SKYPE OR NOT TO SKYPE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

The first message was explicit:
(I imagined him cock-sure and slick),
I giggled but quickly recovered,
got rid of him quick with a click.

I’m spoken for and happily married,
and let’s face it “over the hill…”
but it took me back decades of years,
provided an egotistical thrill.

‘Twas as if I’d sent out a photo,
doctored and faintly erotic:
where my boobs were “in place,”
and an unwrinkled face
suggested a jolly good frolic.

Dear reader I’m totally innocent,
except for writing on line;
don’t wear fancy drawers
(prefer metaphors)
although the thought was sublime.

These days my pleasures are simple:
coffee on patio, pastry snack,
hot chocolate at night,
a book and “to write,”
not gymnastics in bed on my back.

What triggered this poem you may wonder,
I’ll tell you the truth – it’s a fact,
in twenty-four hours
I was suddenly showered
by four Generals, a sir and a hack.

Of course most of “the others”
intentions were pure, white as snow,
but it’s safe to be wary
and quite necessary
for how is a woman to know?!