Monday, April 11, 2011

A Sixth Sense?

by Janet Fogg

I see dead people. I see people who never existed.

A sixth sense, perhaps?

Writers perceive unseen worlds and then put pen to paper to preserve and share those worlds. Do we have ESP, an acute imagination, or both?

Albert Einstein said, "Imagination... is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

As writers we encircle the world when our imagination soars swiftly into the heights or plummets, wingless and desperate, into the darkest depths. We hold an entire world in our hands. Story-telling unleashes our readers’ imaginations.

Then there’s equilibrioception, our sense of balance, that could also be considered a sixth sense. Our sense of balance is physiological, helps keep us upright. The same holds true in our writing. We want to create a sense of balance. Even if the particular world we’re creating is chaotic, it has its own, innate balance and has to be kept straight. We want readers to see and hear that world, feel a character’s ecstasy. Or their pain.

Where am I going with this? I wanted to pause for a moment simply to remind myself to cherish and respect imagination. We make sense of the world, the anguish of others, their determination, their honor, by imagining a walk in their shoes. Bravery might be a prerequisite to try on those slippers or boots, and courage is necessary to write about the experience.

When I first started writing "seriously" I reined in my story-telling over concern about “what people would think,” whether my aunt or a friend might glimpse some dark recess that I keep hidden, or an effervescent, child-like trait, inappropriate to my own self-image. I imagined the worst of them, and myself, rather than freeing my words and worlds. That was dishonest and fear is my excuse. In my mind my stories were glorious, passionate tales. On paper they were boring.

Verisimilitude is the semblance of reality. We want readers to suspend disbelief. To create a semblance of reality my words need to be bold and fearless. It’s okay to be dark or dorky or dumb, whichever is appropriate, and to do that I have to set aside my worries over what someone might think about me. It’s all about the story, and if a character needs to be tortured I have to do my damndest to make them suffer. I need to be honest.

I see dead people and I’m proud of it. Will I be afraid again? Most likely. But if I let my sixth sense run rampant, and if I’m also open and brave, readers might just see my dead people, too. I look forward to seeing yours.

(This time next week join me for: Colorado Gold Writers Contest? High Five! )


Laura K. Deal said...

When I wrote a ghost story, I had poltergeist effects in my house during the whole month I wrote it. But that's a bit more literal than what you're talking about!

Alison N. Holt said...

What a great article. I really enjoyed reading it. What resonated with me was your comment about keeping things in when you became a "real" writer. I did the same for about two chapters of my first book, then I just let it all out!

Alison Holt

Joanne Stewart said...

I've typed this three times now...hopefully this one goes through. I have to admit, maybe cause it's early in the morning and coffee hasn't kicked in yet, that I can't tell if you're serious, if you do see them or if you're just making a point, but I'll be honest. Yeah, I see them too. I hear and feel them as well. Same goes for angels. I have spirit children who run around my house, playing games with us. Dogs, cats. I wake up every morning to the soft beat of an angel's wings.

Now, being a writer, there's a part of me that wishes like crazy that I could somehow translate all of this into a book. I have first hand knowledge. Unfortunately, I don't have that kind of creative imagination. I've tried, and I tend to come up with a whole lot of nothing. Unfortunately I just don't think that way. I tend to write stuff closer to real life. But perhaps one day.

As for being true to yourself and allow yourself the freedom to write... yeah, that's a lesson I'm learning. I tend to want to hold myself back, for exactly that reason, "What will people think? How will they react?". But I'm learning to just allow myself the freedom to write, to let it flow. I think my stories are better for it. Hopefully the editors will too! lol

Great post.

Anonymous said...

A nice way to think about the creativity we exercise in our writing and characterization. It is true that I often find myself "living with" my characters as I am writing, trying to get "inside their head and heart." Sometimes they hang around longer than expected and demand that the story go on...thus the current series I'm writing presently. Thanks,
Paul A. Hansen

Anonymous said...

Wow! Never heard the term equilibrioception. Aren't we writers typically lacking that? Figuratively - think Poe. We want to create a sense of balance and so write and create artificial justice, closure and redemption. I think tension is by its nature imbalance. Big picture plot and character arcs, on the other hand, have their own innate balance.

Dark Dorky or Dump.... so easy to pull that off as believable. We know them well from our own world. Doesn't take a lot of imagination does it?

Imagine on fellow intrepid inkers! Karen Lin

Mary Ricksen said...

Great blog! Half my family is still annoyed with me over my first book. Why did you write about me?? Huh??
I'm like what are you talking about it's a story!!

N. R. Williams said...

Well written post with a lot to think about. I tend to craft a world that is much like the one we live in while at the same time has a few differences that make it fun and unique and scary. Once, a former critique partner asked me something that led into a conversation about this fact. I told her I made it up. She was shocked, no idea why, and said, "You mean you've never been there? It was so real, I thought you had." That's high praise for a fantasy author who is writing about an alternate world.
N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

Caroline Clemmons said...

A thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing.

Janet Fogg said...

Thank you for stopping by! This was such a pleasure to write. While I was primarily speaking metaphorically, I couldn't help but think of an instance when I believe my mother warned me of an impending accident. I didn't see her with my eyes but the message came thru loud and clear...

Michelle Black said...

This post is an excellent essay a situation I have often experienced as a novelist, but never articulated. I get so caught up in a scene that I feel like I am "channeling" my characters and their emotions.

"Verisimilitude is the semblance of reality"--this is another key aspect of writing fiction, though I personally like to refer to the concept as "truthiness" (thank you Steven Colbert!) ;)

Thanks for this thoughtful post!
--Michelle Black

Anonymous said...

The existence of infinite universes offers infinite possibilities, which is why something like the "Star Wars" universe could have in fact existed "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away."