As many writers know, making a central character’s thoughts about the non-existent realm an integral aspect of a narrative can be advantageous. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that most people have a thought life that consists of contemplating things that have no place in the tangible world. Although described and defined with many terms, this mental realm is commonly referred to as an imagination. When writers construct narratives that include representations of a character’s imagination, readers often feel that they have a textual reality that they can relate to. In essence, then, writing that places primacy on the character’s imagination can catch and keep the audience’s attention.
Although I could cite several literary works in which a writer narrated the imagination of a character’s mental life in a creative way, George Sanders’s short story “Puppy” contains a particularly impressive description of his protagonist’s thought life. It unfolds thus:
“Twice already Marie had pointed out the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn, because the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect field of corn put her in mind of a haunted house-not a haunted house she had ever actually seen but the mythical one that sometimes appeared in her mind (with adjacent graveyard and cat on a fence) whenever she saw the brilliance of the autumnal sun on the perfect etc. etc., and she wanted to make sure that, if the kids had a corresponding mythical haunted house that appeared in their minds whenever they saw the brilliance of the etc. etc., it would come up now, so that they could all experience it together, like friends, like college friends on a road trip, sans pot, ha ha ha!”
In this case, Marie’s imagination consists of envisioning a haunted house with an adjacent graveyard as well as a cat sitting on a fence nearby. While these textual elements are interesting enough alone, Sanders’s representation of them becomes even more intriguing given that the protagonist’s reflection upon the haunted house and surrounding imagery are triggered by reality. In this case, that reality is the brilliant autumnal sun and perfect field of corn that Marie gazes upon. In essence, these actual elements of nature cause Sanders’s subject to delve into her own imagination-the mental sphere where the fictive haunted house exists. Ultimately then, Sanders constructs the protagonist’s imagination such that reality is the catalyst for her speculation about a world that does not exist. It is his juxtaposition of these two realms that makes his depiction of Marie’s imagination brilliant and engaging.
As stated earlier, writing about a character’s imagination can be an advantageous thing to do given that audiences are drawn to textual realities they can relate to. In the case of Sanders’s work, it is highly likely that readers themselves have had mental experiences in which observing an object or entity that exists in the real world causes them to reflect upon a concept or thing that is a product of their imagination. Moreover, Sanders’s representation of Marie’s imagination is only one example of the way a writer can draw an audience into the world of the text by discussing the mental realm. Many others exist, and it is the task of the creative writer to find them. I wish you the best of luck!
Jocelyn Crawley holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, Four and Twenty, and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction and Calliope.
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