I wrote yesterday about the difference between imagining and fantasizing. Another way to view works of fantasy as opposed to imagination is that the imagination works with life’s potential to allow through events aligned with the desire summoning them. In other words, the imagination doesn’t care which events it allows, it only cares that those events align with the feeling or the desire. So in fiction, say, you start with a feeling of love or danger or conspiracy or whatever interests you, and very quickly images and characters and conflicts are brought to you and you sort through these potential stories until you find the one most aligned with the feeling you wish to share. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a genre or literary fiction. If you love to write thrillers, then you will always be holding and seeking the feeling of suspense and those suspenseful ideas will keep coming and coming to you.
So while telling a story from the imagination, whether with or without an outline, the only objective is to maintain the desired feeling or feelings – as stories are usually about an evolution or shift of perspective and the feelings that accompany these shifts. What are not so important are events. That is, if a character you love must die to fit the feeling you truly desire, then that character must die.
Fantasy, on the other hand, is all about events. It is saying, “How can I get this man with that woman?” It is saying, “How can I get this woman to defeat that villain, while her parents look on in new found pride?” Instead of the events arising from a desired feeling, the writer presumes given events will arouse certain feelings, even though he or she did not feel those feelings themselves when concocting the events.
I have had a lot of fantasies in my life, but not one of them has ever come true. Dreams, yes; fantasies, no. The fantasy is not interested in working with life, it just wants what it wants, and so life, not surprisingly, works only begrudgingly with it. A tyrant lives in a fantasy world, demanding his subjects suppress their will in order to act out some rigid vision of life the tyrant believes he requires to feel safe.
The mistake of the tyrant as with the writer or the parent or the child, is to confuse events for feelings. All feelings exist within all events, within the mundane and the heroic, and our job as storytellers is to reveal this truth to our readers—reveal love in war, loss in lovemaking. In so doing, we help dispel the myth that anyone is ever required to feel anything at any given moment. That would be slavery, the key to whose chains is held only by the imagination.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.