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Imagination - the art of “what if”

Updated: Jul 23, 2019




Something I used to say to my husband routinely

"What if you woke up and I was beating you with a baseball bat?" He would usually say, "I'd probably cry" and I would ask, "like a little girl?" And he would say sure, and I would say, "show me" and he would, which made us both laugh like crazy.

Sounds funny but putting a little “what if” imagination into your life can be stimulating. I haven’t actually tried out the bat idea but this does keep hubby on his toes knowing he married someone slightly off center. I did notice he has hidden all the bats.


Trying to describe imagination is like describing sound. You can’t see it, can’t buy it, it’s not a color and usually doesn’t bite. But you definitely know when you have found it. I believe imagination is best when linked to reality, you know- it could really happen. Then the thing that could really happen is squashed, distorted and changed making you feel like Picasso. Oh the real deal is in there, like a silver thread running through a jar of slime but the distortion has made the ordinary- interesting.


You can and writers do, play the what if game regularly for creating character, world building, even description. Done well, the writer maneuvers characters like a puppet master moving them into off- center antics. And naturally the most memorable characters in any tale are the crazy ones. Anybody seen Kramer around here?


The odd balls are the very characters we remember, relate to and feel better than. Why not, those people be crazy- right? Crazy, but we love them. Take it from my experience, I’m the straight one in our family and guess who the parents loved most? You got it- wasn’t me. Sometimes you just want to help the what if character, it makes others feel needed.


Who among us hasn’t enjoyed a strange Uncle Joe or a wacky Aunt Sue. I had an uncle, Chan who stopped counting after wedding number seven. He was charming, handsome and wildly talented on the piano. He looked a lot like Clark Gable. Oh my. He also was known for his childish fits and bad temper. Being around him was like driving a car on a dark night with no headlights. Although everyone knew he was slightly crazy- having him around was exciting, unsure and felt like sex on the sofa with mom and dad upstairs. Small doses of these high volume personalities add spice to any family gathering and are the framework for a great tale.


There is no limit to the range of a what if character. They can take on any number of traits from scary to demented or maybe just evil or creepy. Perhaps they just smile too much at inappropriate times. Maybe your what if character is very wealthy but has developed a rank body odor they cannot wash away. Maybe your what if leaves behind a path of dried mud everywhere they go or has a scraggly beard and travels with a huge dog he talks with. See what I mean.


In my book, He Calls Me Darlin’, GRACEY DeBOSE is the what if character. Her early life of abandonment and abuse shaped her into a person the reader may find detestable. Forced to be neutral about her sexuality Gracey uses sex with both men and women to get what she desires. Totally without alliance to either side, Gracey feels cheated of the very thing she desires and using any means available, to achieve what she has lost. When others get hurt along the way, she just shrugs saying, “We all have to do things we don’t like.” Although we shake our heads at such behavior, given her circumstances it is easy to understand the warping of this character.


Imagination is the fairy dust. The unbelievable made real so we can get inside the character’s head and look through those cross-eyed orbs to feel what they feel and most importantly, understand why. So turn on your what if headlamps and your imagination will soar when all fences are down. Take off the gloves, find the soft spot and embrace the crazy. Your characters will jump from the page to live in the hearts of the reader.

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