Don Bosco is a writer who specializes in fiction for teens and children. His stories are inspired by Asian legends and pop culture. In 2015, his Sherlock Hong Adventures series was acquired by Marshall Cavendish for international release. He is a local co-organiser for StoryCode Singapore, which promotes transmedia storytelling across different platforms and formats. He also started the publishing studio Super Cool Books in 2011. His latest book is Imagine All This: How To Write Your Own Stories, published by Marshall Cavendish and available late-2016.
You know how to use your imagination. So let’s try a few simple exercises.
Start by making pictures inside your head. For example, think of a colour.
Let’s say you pick blue. See a big chunk of blue in front of you. Make it bright and vivid, so that you feel as if you’re actually looking at this.
Concentrate. See it as clearly as you can. Use your imagination.
Next, choose another colour.
Maybe green. Or red. Yellow. Black. White. Grey. Gold or silver or the colour of early morning mist or the shade of the afternoon sun on the roof of an old village temple.
Very slowly, using your imagination, cause the first colour that you chose, the blue, to fade into the second colour, right in front of you.
Hold it there for a few minutes. Relax. You’re not in a hurry to go anywhere else. Really imagine this new colour.
Afterwards, change this into a third colour. Something as different as possible.
Keep doing this. Imagine one colour fading into another.
Keep your body relaxed. Especially your shoulders. Breathe easy. Have fun.
Spend some time doing this every day, if you can. Ten minutes would be good. Perhaps just after your breakfast. Or if you’re travelling somewhere, do this on the bus or train. It’s a great way to develop your imagination.
You can also do the same thing with smells. Or sensations: imagine something brushing against your skin. For example, imagine that someone is stroking the back of your left hand with a feather. Feel each stroke. Make them distinct and real. And then change this sensation, from a feather to a cold metal rod, perhaps. Feel its coldness pressing against your skin.
In your own words, how would you describe this?
Write this down.
Imagine you’re throwing a party. You’d find out what food your friends might like to eat, what they’d enjoy drinking, what music they’d want to dance along to. And then you’d try to put all this together for the party.
The result will be an evening that they remember and talk about for a long time.
Imagine that your story is like this party. Make a list of the kind of things that you know you and your readers will enjoy imagining. And then create a story around this list.
Your readers will be delighted.
If you think your reader enjoys watching soccer, give the character in your story a giant TV screen to watch the soccer finals. If your reader likes long hikes, you could describe the amazing nature trails that run near your character’s home. If your reader likes to cook, let your character live in an apartment with a fantastic kitchen, equipped with the latest ovens and stoves and other equipment.
Collect photos of stuff that you like.
Practise visualising all of the them. One at a time, or in different combinations, or all together, if you can.
Manipulate them in your imagination. Change how they look. How they feel. How they smell.
Make them bigger, or smaller, or brighter, or covered in a thick layer of gold dust, or dripping chocolate sauce.
Describe each thing you imagine. Try to keep it as simple yet vivid as possible.
Put these into your stories. Your private catalogue of magical items.
As you get better at this, you’ll find yourself imagining all sorts of incredibly detailed scenarios.
You’ll remember all of it with great clarity. And you’ll be able to write about them quite accurately.
If you don’t hold anything in your imagination, and you try to write your story, you’ll still be able to produce some words. But the more you write, your words will feel empty to you. Hollow.
Lifeless. You won’t experience the pleasure of having all your senses, your emotions, activated by your story.
And likewise, your reader will have a poor reading experience.
So imagine first, and feel, and then write.
Some people think the main tool of a writer is a pen, or fancy stationery, or a laptop, or a special app.
No. A writer’s main tool is far more powerful than any of those things. All of the important work has to be done inside our heads. The tool is our imagination.
Only after the elements have been clearly imagined, can we try to make up sentences and explain when they are.
What you’ve enjoyed in your imagination, becomes a joy to write about.
And in turn this becomes a joy for your reader to imagine too.
In short: you imagine something, and then you write a story so that you reader can have fun imagining the same thing too.
If we were living thousands of years ago, when people still believed in magic, we would say that a story was a kind of spell. And the job of the writer would be to cast such a lovely spell on the reader that the reader would even pay to keep the spell running.
Even today, a good story might feel like magic. But it’s actually all science. It’s based on how our brains work. We can’t help it.
We’re born to create, enjoy and share stories.