Imagination in writing an insightful piece of literatureJames Hurst stated that this story is out of his imagination. To what extent can a writer express such deep insights about a relationship...

Imagination in writing an insightful piece of literature

James Hurst stated that this story is out of his imagination. To what extent can a writer express such deep insights about a relationship (here it is brotherhood) when the piece he is writing is out of his imagination? What is it that assists the writer in being able to convey such feelings and emotions?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I think you are selling the power of imagination short. Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage, one of our best example of war fiction and he was never a soldier, never fought in a battle. What he did do was interview veteran's of the war and then used the power of his imagination to tell a story. I was just listening to an old interview of John Updike today which was broadcast as part of a tribute to his life. Updike was asked the questions, "Does a writer have to base all of his fiction on personal experience?" He answered that with all of the information we have these days about different peoples and cultures, it should be very possible to write about something one has not personally experienced. He gave an example of his own novel "Coup" which is about Africa. He admitted he had been to Africa for only six weeks of his life, but he felt the novel was realistic because he had interviewed many people and then used the power of his imagination to fill in the details.

Well said! I didn't explain clearly what I meant to say. I didn't mean to imply that writers worked only from what they personally experienced in terms of "being there," but that everything they took in became part of their subconscious, such as stories they had heard, pictures they had seen, what they had read.

Imagination and creativity are so closely linked they seem almost synonymous. I can't think of anything creative that isn't born to some extent from imagination. Maybe what we call "imagination" is actually what Coleridge was trying to explain. I don't pretend to understand the creative process, but I enjoy it, and from time to time, I have viewed it with awe.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I think you are selling the power of imagination short. Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage, one of our best example of war fiction and he was never a soldier, never fought in a battle. What he did do was interview veteran's of the war and then used the power of his imagination to tell a story. I was just listening to an old interview of John Updike today which was broadcast as part of a tribute to his life. Updike was asked the questions, "Does a writer have to base all of his fiction on personal experience?" He answered that with all of the information we have these days about different peoples and cultures, it should be very possible to write about something one has not personally experienced. He gave an example of his own novel "Coup" which is about Africa. He admitted he had been to Africa for only six weeks of his life, but he felt the novel was realistic because he had interviewed many people and then used the power of his imagination to fill in the details.

mshurn's profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Imagination in writing an insightful piece of literature

James Hurst stated that this story is out of his imagination. To what extent can a writer express such deep insights about a relationship (here it is brotherhood) when the piece he is writing is out of his imagination? What is it that assists the writer in being able to convey such feelings and emotions?

These questions make me think of Coleridge's "Theory of Creativity." As I remember it, Coleridge believed that a writer takes in all that he experiences--sights, sounds, scenes, people, places, events--and stores them in his or her subconscious mind. There they remain, beyond conscious thought, piling up one upon the other.

Then, and here's the mystery, somehow in the writer's mind these experiences and impressions meld and align themselves into some kind of truth. When this creative process has occurred, something artistically unique moves into the writer's consciousness and then can be expressed in some literary form. It is at this point that the writer's skills and talents take over to produce the work, perhaps a flawed one, perhaps a masterpiece. Since no writer has stored the same "material," each writer produces that which is his or her own.

I find this theory fascinating. I know there are many scientific studies on human creativity, but Coleridge may have been on to something.

 

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