One of the key components necessary for being a fiction writer is, of course, an imagination. I suppose one could write fiction without one. I've encountered a few authors in my lifetime of reading who might fit that description. However, it's pretty darn difficult, and I am not one to choose such difficult paths, so I am very happy to have been blessed with this imagination of mine.
The only thing is (and I know I shouldn't be such a whiner, be so picky, so you don't need to remind me), I'm pretty sure I would have been perfectly content with a mere active imagination as opposed to this overactive one that I've got. "Active" is good. "Overactive" is not. "Active" is what drives plots, what makes writing fun, what encourages a writer to consider various options and scenarios, what allows a writer to see other worlds so clearly. "Overactive" is what can paralyze a writer, because, you see, what creates that Wonderful World full of characters, the world that draws in the reader -- a fully-imagined, believable one -- is also what makes a Not-So-Wonderful World, one that co-exists (and sometimes seems to have its mind on conquering it) with Wonderful World in this universe known as The Writer's Brain. Here's a glimpse of Not-So-Wonderful World:
The Writer has just finished chapter three of The Novel, and chapter four is well on its way. She is busy fixing lunch, content in the fact that the writing is coming along well. She is busy composing a cover letter in her head. The cover letter is being written to Dream Publisher (she has already looked up submission guidelines online, despite the fact she will have nothing to submit before next year).
In this Not-So-Wonderful World that The Writer is visiting while spreading mayonnaise on whole wheat toast and topping it with avocado and onion slices, Dream Publisher, the very first one she approaches, loves her novel (or maybe it's just the brilliant cover letter she's written. No problem. Whatever works). Not only does she get a contract for it, but she also gets a contract for the next novel in the series, which she has already begun to write.
All this is fine and dandy until the critics come marching into Not-So-Wonderful World. The Writer finds herself reading the first reviewer's disparaging remarks:
"The author may have been under the impression that she was creating a hilarious cast of characters, but with so many of them and with such poor characterization, this reader at least, found it difficult to distinguish one from the other, even the males from the females. Spend your money elsewhere this summer."
That's just the beginning. Review after review follows (this book receives more reviews than any other in the history of publishing). Dream Publisher begins to wonder how to get out of that second contract as everyone reads on:
"The author seems to be striving to be the new Armistead Maupin. I've got news for her: Armistead Maupin she ain't."
"The author seems to be confused as to whether or not she is writing farce or tragedy. You may find yourself confused as well, alternately laughing out loud and weeping, but only over the sentence construction that rivals your favorite third-grader's." (This from an author The Writer has never thought could write his way out of third grade.)
"Let us take a little tour of Laurel Ridge, VA, an unbelievable town full of unbelievable, stereotypical characters engaging in antics that even such characters as these just, well, wouldn't. On second thought, let's go elsewhere this year."
"This reader was appalled and offended by the sexualization of a fourteen-year-old child. As if we don't see enough of this trash on television every day. What's next: the sexual lives of toddlers?" (Yes, it's in Ladies Home Journal, and the reviewer is completely misguided, but still...)
As you can see, this is not exactly a pleasant visit for The Writer. She's wondering if she might not encourage Wonderful World to engage in a little invasion (has she heard rumors about WMDs in Not-So-Wonderful World?) possibly resulting in annihilation of the place. I've got another idea, though, a peaceful solution. Dear gods, goddesses, saints, and anyone else who can help, please send me The World's Best Editor.