“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem
The reason writers play god is because they max out their imagination. They can create a story, world, or character out of nothing and make them so believable that people are engrossed in something they already know is fiction.
Without imagination, creativity cannot exist. Writers who fail to use their imagination often end up creating stories with regurgitated plotlines.
That said, I believe that most of us have a good writing imagination, but it needs to be developed so that it can be used effectively.
So, here’s a piece dedicated to helping you develop your imagination, but first, let’s define it.
What is Imagination
Going by the dictionary, imagination is:
- The formation of a mental image of something that is not perceived as real and is not present to the senses.
- The ability to deal resourcefully with unusual problems.
- The ability to form mental images of things or events.
In philosophical terms, imagination is the most powerful asset of the human mind, something that is unique and cannot be bound by the rules of the physical world.
An imaginative mind has the power to take things that we already know, mix them with nonexistent things, and create a whole thing.
According to an article by Dr. Hunter Murray (originally published in the Review of Contemporary Philosophy journal), there are eight types of imagination:
- Effectuative imagination: This type of imagination arises from synthetic thinking when existing ideas and information are synthesized to create new ideas. It just takes random thoughts to spark this type of imagination, but you can also synthesize ideas from your past experiences.
- Intellectual or constructive imagination: Unlike effectuative imagination, intellectual or constructive imagination takes a premeditated approach, where an idea develops from different hypotheses and possibilities using the acquired knowledge.
- Imaginative fantasy: Imaginative fantasy is what most people think of whenever the word “imagination” pops up. This is the type of imagination that helps us come up with new ideas for creating and developing stories, pictures, poems, plays, and other creative tasks.
- Empathy: Empathy means being aware of and sharing another’s feelings. For writers, empathy is everything because it enables them to create characters that represent people other than themselves. Instead of using your feelings and experiences, empathy helps us use other people’s feelings and perceptions.
- Strategic imagination: Strategic imagination deals with “what could be.” We use strategic imagination to spot opportunities and imagine the outcomes and benefits of those opportunities.
- Emotional imagination: This type of imagination involves manifesting emotional dispositions and turning them into mental representations. Great writers use this imagination efficiently; they imagine the emotions involved in different scenarios and make the reader feel them.
- Dreams: Humans have not completely deciphered dreams, but they have proven useful in certain circumstances. Unlike all the other seven types of imagination, dreams are an unconscious type of imagination that randomly comes to us in our sleep.
- Memory Reconstruction: This imagination involves retrieving memories to regenerate mental images. We can recollect bits of people, objects, and events stored in our subconscious and use our imagination to glue them together, although they are not as lucid as the original images.
What Is the Importance of Imagination in Fiction Writing?
Imagination is a creativity facilitator. It enables the ability to envision new ideas and events that have occurred or will occur.
It opens the door to new realms of creativity, which enables the audience to experience a new world that may or may not be real.
In this article, the context is mostly imagination and writing, but it goes beyond writing. The fact that imagination is the engine of creativity and innovation means it can be used in any field. Apart from literature, imagination is the power source of technology, science, the arts, education, and even politics.
We often ignore the role that imagination plays in boosting our mental health. Imagination helps us beat boredom and bring creative things into our relationships. These things can help us add more recreation to our lives, be happier, and bring positivity.
The sad thing about imagination is that it is an untapped superpower for most people and is mistaken for talent or intelligence.
Here are the advantages of using your imagination as a writer:
- Helps your readers connect to the story.
- Vital in creating original/unique stories.
- Helps create well-rounded characters (not like you or stereotypical).
- Improves the readers’ comprehension of narratives.
- It promotes narrative engagement, by enabling both creator/writer and reader/viewer to feel, travel, and live in fictional worlds.
- Imagination helps personalize narrative comprehension by allowing the reader/audience to interpret the narrative content using their personal experiences and beliefs.
How to Develop and Use Your Imagination
A good writer leverages their imagination to come up with million-dollar stories. At a certain point in their careers, they realized that it was one of their biggest assets, and they developed it.
Read, A Lot
As a writer, you must read. We often develop new ideas from existing information, templates, and genres.
The more information you have, the more material you have to spark your imagination. Well-read writers are more imaginative, and they easily avoid clichés because they’ve read a lot of ideas that writers before them have developed into stories.
Go Against Norms
Don’t get stuck in a box trying to be right. Who says you can’t have vampires who have to protect an important religious figure from the devil?
Make the possibilities limitless, as long as you don’t infringe on the rights of certain demographics. You can have a whole new angle on magic and human history, come up with a new species, or create an earth where humans are not born but manufactured.
You are free to redefine anything and test the limits of your imagination, to the point where people start saying, “Wow! I never thought about that.”
Cultivate your Empathy
Developing our level of empathy is important because it helps us create characters who are unlike us. It’s okay to have a character inspired by your own life story, but you can’t have many characters that are like you.
You have to develop a curiosity about other people’s backgrounds, cultures, passions, tragedies, regrets, and other things in their day-to-day lives.
You also have to ignore your biases and try to see people through their own eyes or the eyes of people who are unlike you.
You can also try to put yourself in other people’s shoes by doing their routines and attending activities of foreign cultures.
Ask Yourself Questions
There is nothing special about this process; all you do is ask yourself questions that will spark a creative thought process.
Simple but deliberate questions lead to the analysis of concepts, the exploration of complex ideas, and the origination of structured logic that fosters creative ideas.
Here are some of the questions that you should be asking yourself:
- Could I put that another way? What is an alternative?
- How would other groups of people respond to this scenario? Why?
- Could this scenario really happen? In what universe or time?
- If this scenario happened, what would be the domino effect? Why?
- Why does character X assume something?
- What information does he/she need?
- By what reasoning did he/she come to that conclusion?
The power of our imagination is immeasurable. Imagination can help us take different elements that we may or may not be familiar with and glue them together to create something new and unique. It helps us create stories that never happened, come up with characters that everyone is unfamiliar with, and create worlds that do not exist in reality.
Yet, even if the reader knows that it’s all just works of fiction, the stories created from a good imagination have the power to pull them in and evoke emotions that they’d normally have in real-life scenarios.
The thing about imagination is that it’s not the writer that needs it; the reader has to have some level of imagination too to enjoy the story.
I’m sure you have learned a thing or two and are going to use the tips that I gave you. Just to recap the tips: Read a lot, go against norms, develop your empathy, and always ask yourself questions.