The Unforgettable Image, Part Five

Here’s the conclusion to Lee Stoops’ great series on The Unforgettable Image. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and Lee, thank you so much! It was a real pleasure having you.

Identification of Meaning’s Roots, Planting Your Ownfor LS pt 5

Think of an unforgettable image. You don’t need to go re-read the scene right now – I’m banking on you being able to recall it. Try to remember as much of it as you can. What was happening immediately before and after? Where does it show up in the story? Why there?

Remember the first time you read it? What was your specific emotional response?

Why?

Why was there that specific emotional response? We don’t usually consider this. Go deeper than what is on the page. We usually stop at the page, even if we think we don’t. We imagine something, and it affects us, and we remember it (even if we don’t want to) and we move on.

But if you take the time to consider why these things work for you, map your process through memory and experience, you’ll be able to take this skill, this consideration, into your own writing.

The-Shining-the-shining-30876898-1280-1024So, think about the image again and start digging. What in your memory informed that response?

Was it a sound? A texture? A childhood memory? A loss? I’ll bet you can trace it to something very specific. It probably won’t take long.

Now, go find that printed story and that specific scene/image. Look at the language, the construction, the details printed in and around it.

Think about what the author is doing here. You know he/she considered it.

It is important to think about what we’re writing in this way: it’s not enough to just hope for affect – we need to consider why something can be affective.

Now, think about some of your other unforgettable images. I imagine you’ll begin to recognize a trend. I can’t shake imagery that involves parents witnessing/living through the death of a child. I lost my first daughter.

So, how do you direct this toward something in your writing? Rather, a more important question is: Do you want to?

While the theme of my own unforgettable imagery is often present in my work, it’s not that specific visualization I’m after. Instead, I believe a deeper understanding of the power of why can inform the work. Because it affects me, darkness (what Carl Jung labeled “the shadow”) plays a controlling role in both what I read and write.

I work for unforgettable images that speak to something I fear or lack in my life. What do you write or read toward? Every piece of work you produce should have something you value as unforgettable attached to it. It’s time to go after the why and make it work for you.

The Unforgettable Image, Part Four

Here’s the next installment from Lee Stoops. Been a crazy week, so apologies for the delay in posting!

Building the Case for Changing the Way We Think 

balanco-clouds-girl-perception-swing-Favim.com-55374We need to make sense of our perceptions.

Imagination is the core of our human experience. It’s how we build memories and process. I’m not talking about imagination as we often hear about it (cliché). Rather, I mean imagination in how we’re constantly creating everything we think as we think it.

We label these skills as innate, and therefore, forget how impossible it is our brains can do what they can do. We can invent complete realms within the unseen space of our minds just using the things we derive from our perceptions of a shared world. And that’s just the beginning.

If we’ve forgotten anything we learned immediately as children, it’s that we should be giving our imaginations carte blanche. Instead, we listen to critics and doubts and just about every voice we can hear, those in our heads and otherwise, and we lock up our brains up as they age.

We claim we don’t, but we do. We say things like “the more I know the less I know” and think we’re being clever and profound and mature. But what are we really saying?

That we recognize we have trouble using the first tool we ever learned how to use. Simple is sophisticated, here, but we’re so focused on sophisticated, that we forget how beautiful and natural it is and should be to let our minds just go.

As we age, we use our creative capabilities more for easy rationalization or occ

asional problem solving. Somewhere along the line, most of us have started thinking about imagination and memory as a perk of existence rather than the means. They certainly are the benefits – why we love books, movies, art, music.

As we hear all the time – this experience is magic. It’s what we’re constantly after, both in our reading and in our writing. We’re looking for the things we don’t have/know/understand, and we’re trying to make sense of the things we do.

But, think about this – outside our little world of narrative lies a world of problems being solved by imagination.olivier_hamlet3 For example – being able to imagine ourselves in other people’s places is how we gain social relationships and understanding. But it takes knowledge and memory to do this.

Knowledge. Things we know. Things we remember. Things that start to inform our imagination. We hold onto everything, not just for the sake of storing information, but because it enables us to make sense of future experiences, and it gives us the ability to predict outcomes, or, in the case of the impossible, imagine outcomes. We all daydream. Why don’t we give ourselves more credit for what we can cook up?

In the next post, we’ll look at methods of identifying unforgettable imagery in what you read for developing unforgettable images in what you write.

 

 

The Unforgettable Image Part Two: The Link Between Imagination and Memory

by guest blogger Lee Stoops:

Image
but I’m such a cute cliché…

 In our generation of images and scenes, we tend to recreate the things that have strongly affected us. I need to note something about cliché here. Something is labeled cliché when it affects (or has affected) a lot of people. The problem with cliché, and why it doesn’t work for unforgettable imagery, is that it doesn’t have power. Because it’s common, overused. Clichés don’t surprise or evoke…anymore.

So, getting back to what we know and how we imagine: There are those few experiences that infect us, the things we can’t forget, especially the things we often times want to. These experiences are deeply informed by both imagination and memory.  So let’s break it down a bit.

Imagination: It has a fundamental and paradoxical dichotomy. It’s sensory, yet exists separate from the physical. Imagination makes hearing possible when there is no sound, remembers smell when there is no scent, makes images available when the eyes are hidden behind the flesh of lids.

But, the purpose of imagination is to provide meaning to experience and understanding to knowledge. It is the fundamental faculty through which people make sense of the world. It plays a key role in our human learning process.

Imagination, informed by memory, makes it possible for us to create, deepen, and understand the idea of the “other” – something I’m suspect we, as humans, are alone in our ability.

Memory: It is nothing if not imagination. The generation of feelings, both emotional and sensate, past and present, is the work of imagination.

While imagination is the tool with which we tell stories, paint pictures, sculpt statues, and compose music, process our world, make sense (or try to) of everything that happens, and then draw connections, what we’re really doing is forming memories to inform future experiences.

When we write, we use both imagination and memory to develop our scenes, our images.

When you write a scene, whether something you’ve a sense of for a story or something you remember for a personal essay – what happens?

As soon as it’s in words, it sharpens. And becomes permanent the way you imagine/remember it.

We’ve all heard that our memory is our truth. But what’s more? When we take the time to write these things, fiction or nonfiction, they also become our memory – they round memory out, possibly even replace memory.  

In the next post, we’ll dig into the science and how we can use it as storytellers.


so much &*^#$@%( hyperbole!

Damm-Thats-Way-Too-Much-Makeup
less is more? whaa…?

Want to stand out with your writing? Or in general? Remove hyperbole from your writing and, for that matter, your speech. Have you noticed that people now seem to be incapable of speaking without it? We’ve become gushers of adjectives, adverbs, and expletives. A touch of hyperbole can strengthen a scene, but if it’s not there for a specific purpose, cut it. If you read the scene aloud and it calls attention to itself, cut it.

halloween_flower_over_the_top_bow2
too much?

Less is more in these days of overstatement. “I was so f-ing exhausted.” You go beyond exhaustion, you’re probably dead. “No, really, I nearly died from exhaustion.” Did you just finish the Ironman? Then okay. But thanks to advertising, politics, and the entertainment industry, it’s become our standard way of speaking. No one is wrong, they’re diabolically evil. They can’t have a different opinion, they’re horrendously stupid. Along with it, mercy, the benefit of the doubt, even common ground have disappeared (and in this climate, you want to stop bullying? Good luck with that). Once hyperbole becomes the norm, it loses its effectiveness as a device. We get jaded as stories push the envelope further and further. Get simple. Get back to a good story, well-told.

what else do you need?
simplicity is beautiful

If you need a bit of hyperbole for effect in your writing, combine it with a simile or metaphor. Also, use different levels – and that would include zero – of hyperbole in the character voices. Allow your characters different speech patterns. Let the characters be as varied as people in the world. As with any literary device, be aware of what you’re using and why.

Hyperbole done right? The master, as always (from Hamlet, Act V, sc i)

                              LAERTES

O, treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms:

[Leaps into the grave.]

Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o’ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus.

 Hamlet is not about to be outdone – he even says so at the end of his speech later in the scene:

HAMLET
‘Swounds, show me what thou’lt do:
Woo’t weep? woo’t fight? woo’t fast? woo’t tear thyself?
Woo’t drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
I’ll do’t. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as thou.

Shakespeare
don’t OD with the hyperbole, son

so much &*^#$@%( hyperbole!

Damm-Thats-Way-Too-Much-Makeup
less is more? whaa…?

Want to stand out with your writing? Or in general? Remove hyperbole from your writing and, for that matter, your speech. Have you noticed that people now seem to be incapable of speaking without it? We’ve become gushers of adjectives, adverbs, and expletives. A touch of hyperbole can strengthen a scene, but if it’s not there for a specific purpose, cut it. If you read the scene aloud and it calls attention to itself, cut it.

halloween_flower_over_the_top_bow2
too much?

Less is more in these days of overstatement. “I was so f-ing exhausted.” You go beyond exhaustion, you’re probably dead. “No, really, I nearly died from exhaustion.” Did you just finish the Ironman? Then okay. But thanks to advertising, politics, and the entertainment industry, it’s become our standard way of speaking. No one is wrong, they’re diabolically evil. They can’t have a different opinion, they’re horrendously stupid. Along with it, mercy, the benefit of the doubt, even common ground have disappeared (and in this climate, you want to stop bullying? Good luck with that). Once hyperbole becomes the norm, it loses its effectiveness as a device. We get jaded as stories push the envelope further and further. Get simple. Get back to a good story, well-told.

what else do you need?
simplicity is beautiful

If you need a bit of hyperbole for effect in your writing, combine it with a simile or metaphor. Also, use different levels – and that would include zero – of hyperbole in the character voices. Allow your characters different speech patterns. Let the characters be as varied as people in the world. As with any literary device, be aware of what you’re using and why.

Hyperbole done right? The master, as always (from Hamlet, Act V, sc i)

                              LAERTES

O, treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms:

[Leaps into the grave.]

Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o’ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus.

 Hamlet is not about to be outdone – he even says so at the end of his speech later in the scene:

HAMLET
‘Swounds, show me what thou’lt do:
Woo’t weep? woo’t fight? woo’t fast? woo’t tear thyself?
Woo’t drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
I’ll do’t. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as thou.

Shakespeare
don’t OD with the hyperbole, son

Other Voices Writing Conference

OtherVoices_FlyerNeed to get away, refresh and write? Consider signing up for Other Voices Querétaro

What you get?

  • 10 days of structured activities with your fellow writers
  • 7 days of workshops, 3 hours per day
  • All “Wine and Publishing” Talks
  • Mid-morning pastries and coffee on all workshop days
  • Welcome dinner at Fin de Siglo
  • Walking orientation tour of historic QRO
  • Closing celebration festivities
  • Visit to an artist’s studio in San Miguel de Allende
  • Transportation to the ruins on final day of the program, including “tequila parties” in the vans!

My connection is that Rob Roberge is one of my mentors and one of the very best writing instructors out there. Do yourself a favor. Sign up. Have fun. Wish I could join you!

And pre-order Rob’s next book!