Before TV and high-tech came on the scene, people listened to their entertainment on the radio. To soaps and sitcoms and mysteries and children’s programs. To sports and news. They conjured in their minds how a situation or character looked. They visualized the world the program took them into.
Each person drew on the words they heard. They added information from their own experiences, their perceptions, and their world view to shape the pictures and thoughts in their heads.
Today, with films, television shows, the internet, and video games, little is left for us to imagine. Animated films spell it all out for kids. Movies have difficulty allowing us into a character’s thoughts and seldom offer scene fade-outs so the mind can take over. Everything is portrayed. A mind numbing experience.
But … the reader of a writer’s words still has the freedom to let his imagination run. To “see” a character, “hear” the pitch of the character’s voice, visualize a small town, smell a bonfire, taste a stew, feel a rough hand, hear the crash of glass. The reader is free to travel into the wider world the writer’s words unlock. And, if the writer’s done her job, the reader will care about the character, feel the tension, cry, and laugh.
A solitary picture can give the reader’s imagination a gentle nudge. Two of my short stories, “Not Even Gloria” and “Funny Man”, appeared in The Sun Runner magazine. The publication chose a picture to accompany each story. The images reminded me of a book jacket or an old time movie poster. A character (person) wasn’t pictured. How that character looked was left to the imagination and the writer’s words.
Foam sloshed down his fingers as Jingo Sparks grabbed a draft beer from the bar and gulped it down. The ride on Interstate 10 through open desert made his mouth feel like a bowl of dry oatmeal. He slipped the Harley keys in his jean’s pocket and edged through the Friday night crowd at Rick’s Pool Hall. (From “Not Even Gloria” in The Sun Runner Second Annual Desert Writers Issue.)
Denny kept his thoughts on the evening ahead, Open Mike Night for Comics at the best casino in town. His dream of being a stand-up comic like Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock was close. All he needed was a break. He was ready. (From “Funny Man” in The Sun Runner Third Annual Desert Writers Issue.)
As writers, we go from what we know is real … to the imaginary. We get to dream and not just at night. We can let our imaginations run and take our readers with us. Together we can keep our imaginations alive and well.