Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Truth in Imagination

It's been a week since I last posted.  With my husband still in a wheel chair, and another 3-4 weeks to go, I haven't had much time to even think about writing, much less do it.

Today, however, I started thinking about something one of my friends asked me.  She asked me if having been a teacher was what gave me the impetus to write.  I had to think about that for awhile.  I know a lot of writers who are or have been teachers.  So is there something about teaching that leads so many of us to write?

I'm not sure.  With the exception of a year and a half where I taught physically and sexually abused children, all my teaching experience has been with adults.  Hmm...well, chonologically adults, any way.  University students, juniors, seniors and graduate students.  I can see where teaching children from elementary to high school would be good experience, and offer good "fodder" for writing...but college kids?  I don't know about that.

When I started writing, I wanted to create a world of imagination for kids, but one in which they could each find some small measure of truth, something that would ring true just for them.  Truth in Imagination.  Okay, so that's a difficult concept to explain, probably because that's just my concept, or at least, what I call my feelings about writing.  I want to write a story that sparks the imagination of a child, and yet one in which that child can find a truth.  A truth about friendships or relationships, about nature and the environment, about most anything that is real.  Even a truth about her/himself.  Does that make sense to you?

Okay, let's try it a different way.  Do you remember when you were reading as a kid, and you got lost in the story?  Your imagination took off, and for a short, wondrous while, you were not you, but the heroine or hero in the story.  Think about it...did any of those stories you read make you realize something that was true in real life?  If so, isn't that kinda like "truth in imagination?"

One of the stories I had published was about a young boy who went to live with his father on a ranch.  The boy hated horses because he was afraid of them.  One night in a storm, his father had to leave to find a vet for a newborn foal, and he told the boy that he was relying on him to go out to the pasture and keep the foal alive until the vet could get there.  To the child reading this story, wouldn't he put himself into the story and imagine what he would do?  Would he refuse to go out in the  storm with an upset mare and a newborn foal?  If he did, how would or could he help keep the foal alive?  If he didn't, how would he feel about betraying the trust his father had put in him?  As he reads on, he finds out what the boy did, and he can ask himself "Is this what I would have done?"

The story sparks the imagination but leaves a measure of truth for the reader to figure out for himself.  Is the reader learning something about himself, or about what can happen in real life by this story?  I think so.  I hope so.  Not because I intended to "teach" anything, but because I hope I put a grain of truth into an imaginative story.

Truth in Imagination: think about it.  Isn't that something that all teachers try to do in the class room?  I did.  At the university, I taught mostly Statistics and Research Methodolgy.  I know, I know...UGH!  Most of my students thought the same way.  So I tried to make a very dry subject interesting and relevant to daily life.  Statistics don't lie...a very tired cliche' but its the truth, no matter what.  So where did 'imagination' come in?  I brought real life into the class, by asking the students to use their imaginations to come up with real life situations that could be resolved by using statistics.  The point was...you need logic to learn statistics, therefore you can apply the laws of statistics by using logic in real life situations even if they are imaginary ones.

When I started writing 'for real,' I tried to keep the concept of truth in imagination alive and well in my writing.  Hopefully, I have been able to do that.  The stories I've published, I think, have exemplified that concept.  I believe that I was able to do that in my last novel, as well.  We'll see about this next one...it's an historical novel, so I think it's going to be a little more difficult to use that concept.

Think about it: whether you've ever been a teacher or not, don't you try to put truth into the imaginative stories that you write?  I don't mean "truth' as in facts.  We'll leave those for non-fiction writers.  But unless you write only Science Fiction or Fantasy, I'll bet you've used the concept of Truth in Imagination again and again...but you've just never thought of it in those terms.

Think about it...Let me know...

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