As crime fiction writers, imagination plays a huge role in finding our story. You know the one. The story that will keep readers up at night and leave them wanting more when they finish that last page. The story whose characters ride along with our reader for days after they’ve moved on, like ghosts of friends they want to stay in touch with.
The trick becomes to take what’s in that special Imagination Place in our heads (for me it’s a movie room) and transfer the images to words that make sense. Words that flow a lot better than that dream you had the other night.
And then, it gets tough. Unless you write fantasy you’re going to have to set your imagination aside and do some investigation into reality. While I thoroughly enjoy doing research (it’s sucked me in more than once), it can be a real trick to keep the magic in the story and make it factually correct.
When our project drags, there can be a lot of reasons (a character is acting in a way they never would, we’re repeating things the reader already knows, we’re including a scene that goes nowhere, blah blah blah), but I think one reason might also be that we’ve allowed fact to ride all over imagination. The harness has been put on and the reins pulled tight. Instead of the great imaginer, we’ve become the workhorse, plodding along through something that once made us want to leap.
So, what to do? If we’ve checked our characters and our scenes and everything seems good, we need to take a good hard look at our harness and imagine what it would take to soften it. Make it work with us for a change rather than the other way around. Come at it from a different angle. Shake things up. Turn them upside down. Then put the pieces back together in a unique and surprising way.
As a writer, what’s your Imagination Place? Do you have a way to get back to it if facts begin to bog you down?
As a reader, have you read books where you can identify the exact spot the imagination left and humdrum reality took over? Or on the other hand, a place where the author had something happen completely out of left field and should have been a little more true to reality?
It’s all better with friends.