When we write fiction, we imagine. The word “fiction” originated from the Latin word “fictio” meaning: to form. I also like to think fiction means false diction or making things up. I like fiction because it’s heart is imagination and invention. Writing fiction can be fun, freeing and fantastical to create.
When I write I love to infuse magical realism into my stories. Perhaps because life can feel mundane sometimes and in equal measure bizarre. So, when life is dull I imagine mystical encounters or hidden mysteries and when things amp up and become bizarre I ground myself in the simple acts of waking, sleeping and even breathing.
My point is life is incredibly complex, beautiful, sometimes boring and broken. It reels with possibility and can also feel trapped and two dimensional. Fictional stories take writers/reader to new places impossible to reality. That’s why fiction is such a joy and a privilege to write and read.
When working on a novel or picture book I often look for ways to manifest the story in my real life. I do this to enhance the main character and help understand what it feels like to be that character. The more a writer can get in touch with a character’s wants and needs the more vivid they become. A good description of this practice is to get into the ‘skin’ of your character.
For example, when I was in the thick of forming my debut novel about a young girl who dreams of becoming a warrior. I created a shadow dance with grade 4 students based on the characters from the story. The reason for doing so was to teach the main theme: Believe in yourself even when fear threatens to destroy your dreams.
The shadow play was a good way to further teach this dynamic to the students. They enjoyed taking on the different roles I set out such as the girl training and encountering obstacles and overcoming them in the end. I mean who doesn’t love a training montage? In many ways the “hero’s journey,” a common archetype Joseph Campbell described in myth and fiction is ubiquitous. You can even apply it to your own life’s journey in many ways. I believe that is why stories are such a profound part of our existence. We gather information from other people’s stories and apply it to our own in order to better understand the complexity we face every day.
Manifesting story creates more meaning in writing and in storytelling. So, if you are a children’s writer or a teacher think of ways you can bring your characters to life. The Kids will love it!
Check out the shadow dance.
The performance was for the school and a creative expression and was in no way commercially produced or for profit. The music used was from an inspiring singer/songwriter called Laura Mvula. Her lyrics and heart are so deeply felt in the rhythm and colour of her music.
You can check out a great description of heroes journey here https://youtu.be/Hhk4N9A0oCA