Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Imagination Goes Awry (Says the Masses)

A couple of posts ago, I talked about using history to inspire the events in your storyWhile some people will find history's many facets as the perfect spring boards of creativity, some even going so far as to transpose their own versions of history or places over the primary world's version (here's to looking at you, Neil Gaiman), other writers prefer to construct their worlds using large amounts of fantasy and only small grains of truth.

Image obtained from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IMAGINATION_by_archanN.jpg


Personally, I find both methods to be very appealing. In the novel Neverwhere, for example, Neil Gaiman takes the well-known world of London and creates this literal underworld where an entire society exists in a sort of "sub-layer" beneath the city. Okay, so this explanation of the world of Neverwhere is extremely simplistic and does not take into account some of the finer points of Gaiman's worldbuilding, but you get the general idea.

Now, on the other end of this reality-based/pure-imagination spectrum we have worlds like Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover. In short, Darkover is a world inhabited by the descendants of Irish/Scottish astronauts who crash landed on the planet "long ago." Because these crash-landed astronauts have no way to contact Earth and no way to continue living the technologically-advanced lifestyles to which they were accustomed, they begin a very rudimentary existence that, over time, evolves into a kind of fantastic Medieval era, complete with a class system, families with magical abilities, and a whole host of social problems.

Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum with have stories that are based in the real world but which contain unique imaginative elements that serve as a platform upon which the fictitious world is built. Take, for instance, E. L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, I will not presume to educate you on the contents of Fifty Shades. I haven't read the book myself, and like I mentioned in an earlier post ("Why I Dislike Book Reviews: A Book Review"), there isn't much more I dislike than an uninformed review. However, I do feel confident enough in my knowledge of the book to say this: whether or not James creates a genuine depiction of the BDSM subculture is irrelevant.

The whole point of fiction is to create a story that is both engaging and entertaining. Sometimes, in the creation of the story itself, an author may take liberties with the "facts" of a scenario, act, or group of people, all with the intention of molding the respective aspect of reality into something suitable for the purposes of the story. A lot of people have expressed displeasure at James's success and the premise of her novels, but as renowned author Anne Rice points out in a comment on one of her Facebook posts:
"It's a . . . fantasy. . . . [the author] created the scenes, the situations, the attitudes, and a lot of other women enjoy reading the book and obviously will enjoy the movie. Why in the world are people jumping all over this? This is not a documentary. It's erotica!"
Whew! That soap box  gets a little high sometimes. I will probably have more Fifty Shades posts in the future . . .

I know I detracted from the original intent of this post there towards the end. The point is still ultimately the same: authors should have the privilege of creating worlds using all of their available resources, including history, reality, and the imagination.

Fiction is just that: fiction. Realize the potential and the magic that comes from that idea, and don't expect any one author to be the expert on the subject she is writing about. No one ever intends for his or her book to be representative of an entire population. Let it be.

What do you think about the use of imagination in the creative process? Leave me a comment below.

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