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 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 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 Three

Lee Stoops is back for week 3 of guest blogging:

 Understanding the Science of Imagination and Memory 

mobius stripMemory and imagination are interchangeable in a way because of the way they inform one another. This is especially true in storytelling. And it’s kind of like a closed loop, a Mobius strip, with no clear chicken or egg. Memory is created by witness, which is immediately followed by processing, followed by recall, which is only possible because of imagination. It goes on like this.

It’s been shown with MRI technology that in both cases of memory and imagination, blood flows to the same parts of the brain at the same rate, regardless of which is being used. (To read more on this, check out Priscilla Long’s My Brain on my Mind)

What we might label “long term” memories are stored deep in the brain and are easier to recall because we recall them all the time. The “unforgettable images” we read and write go into the same place – we can’t get rid of them and we can’t

help ourselves but think about them. That long term space is quick setting concrete and it’s out of our reach of control.

In case you’re curious (if you’ve gotten to here, you are – and thank you), it’s the Neocortex and Thalamus that are responsible for controlling the brain’s imagination. These are, unsurprisingly, the same pieces that control both consciousness and abstract thought.

So, imagination involves a bunch of different brain functions: emotions, memory, sensory recall. Understanding how memory and imagination are linked within the brain (not the physiological so much as the way they interact with our interior selves) means we can start to understand and link significant experiences with imagination for the sake of our work.

story time

As children, we all went through basic training for imaginations by listening to others tell stories. In narrative, it all comes down to the exactness of chosen words to evoke imagination and a sensory experience.

We focus on the senses – smell, taste, sound, texture, sight – because it’s what we’ve been trained to do. By others and by our brains. And while we remember much of what we read and write, because we can’t help ourselves, it’s the very specific images that make all the difference – this is our biology at work.

This is important to reconcile because our visual sense becomes our primary sense when we read and write. What we see in our mind, and the emotional response it evokes, relies on what we can “see.”

In the next post, we’ll build a case for changing the way we think about our imaginations and memories.

imagine that!

3899_10102616521387013_529553900_nHow good is your imagination? Did you ever imagine riding a moose in a river or lake? Why not? I mean, come on, Teddy Roosevelt actually did it (not photoshopped according to and Life Magazine) and you didn’t imagine it?

Me neither! But then, I would have gone to the hospital if someone shot me. Not Teddy. Campaigning for a third term, he was shot and delivered his campaign speech, bleeding from the undressed bullet hole in his chest. Yeah, officially the most badass President ever.

But I digress.

What about your imagination? What are you doing to nurture and encourage it? It’s a skill, like any other. Visualize, read and analyze fiction (ahem, Annotation Nation anyone?), read things you would never read, do things outside of your comfort zone, take a dare, play with a kaleidoscope, ask questions of strangers outside your usual social circle. Write a story in another genre. Try role playing. Take an acting class. Read Diane Ackerman’s A Natural History of the Senses. Go outside, lay on the grass or the beach and watch clouds. Play games that involve recognizing patterns. If you train yourself to see patterns, then you can combine things in new ways.

Have fun! And if you have suggestions, please share them. Thanks!