Writing In Color Using Black and White Thinking

Imagination vs Reasoning

Fantasy vs Reality

Finding a balance between all these things can be tricky but key when writing. On one hand, if you’re in the business of writing fiction it’s obvious that not everything you write will be “reality” and one the other, you don’t want to be so unrealistic the story looses the ability to be relatable.

Unfortunately there is no one way or another to keep this balance as it all depends on what sort of story you’re creating. For me, creating a fantasy world filled with magic meas that sometimes the laws of physics can be defied, so how do I go off making the story somewhat realistic when it clearly is not anything close to our current reality?

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First, you have to create your own reality. Example, if you have a world filled with magic, I found the best stories make the limitations of that magic clear so everyone knows not just what can be done but what can not. The reader will understand these new rules in this new realm and adapt. When drawn into the story, they will adhere to the new standards of “reality”, thinking through that premise. As a writer then you have to make sure you keep everything in the bounds of that new reality. You can’t go off breaking your own rules or else you end up with a situations that fluctuate between our “real world reality” and your “imaginative reality”.

Keep things consistent. Not predictable, but consistent.

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Now none of us can actually say we’ve ever slain a dragon or thrown a ring into a volcano and saved the world. One might look at this and wonder what could be relatable about those stories. Think to one of your favorite books and tell me, what is it you found so compelling about it? And then tell me how you think it mirrors your own life. Chances are you will find some similarities within the characters of that story rather than the story itself.

If there is one thing that you can’t change no matter how much magic you place inside a realm it’s human nature. Characters who are human will act like human beings do. Their emotions and expressions and attitudes should continue to reflect the state of current and past human nature. This is what will make the story relatable. Seeing failure. Seeing emotion. Seeing strength. Those are the traits we look for. I don’t recommend taking that out of a story. Here is probably where you want to keep within the bounds of reality the most as it’s what’s going to make the reader fall in love with your characters.

Unrealistic characters is problem one of the number one complaints I hear from readers. Mary Sue characters are one of the most hated types in all of writing history as not only are they unrealistic but they make the other characters around them seem unrealistic as well. What I find helps me the most is reading up on history, even if your story is set in an alternative universe. It can still help you understand the nature of humankind and thus make your story not only more informative and entertaining but it gives the readers a sense of familiarity within a strange new world.

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Eventually you will start to get a feel for it. Once you begin establishing limitations and strengths your “reality” will start to make sense and thus find consistency. People like to be surprised, but they don’t enjoy being confused so be sure the boundaries are set and the readers understand the rules. Once that is set then you are free to play around with your imagination as much as you want.

Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it

Lloyd Alexander

It’s A Science Not Magic

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I hate to be the breaker of bad news but writing is hard.

No seriously, it’s a lot of work. And it get’s frustrating at time and there are moments you will find yourself pounding your head against a hard surface or excessively drinking coffee in hopes the caffeine can evolve into creativity.

It’s not like the movies where you see some underdog who is secretly so talented that everything they write is gold and everyone just falls in love with the first draft- it’s more like painstakingly plotting, preparing, and researching before you even get a word down and then when you do start the story, you’re constantly digging for your dictionary in search of the just the right word because for some reason your brain can’t even remember if a word even exists for the feeling of wanting to give up and set fire to your office just to watch your current WIP burn to ashes…

Exasperation. Yeah, that’s the word. Thanks Merriam-Webster.

By the way, that’s just the beginning- we haven’t even got into editing or marketing and all that stuff in between.

I’m not here to discourage you. Just the opposite. But what I’m learning through this whole process is that if you want to make your dreams happen you got to work for it. There is no magic word, hocus pocus and now I’m successful. There is no fairy dust to sprinkle on the pages that turns your ideas into beautifully written prose. It’s all you. Your hard work. Your time. Your energy. Everything is you pouring yourself out even in times you would rather be doing something else and the thought of words themselves disgust you.

See, most of the time (like 95% of the time) success isn’t just going to fall into your lap.
Yes, there are a few stories of some people who just literally get out of bed and somehow the world is at their feet but let’s be honest, you are more likely to get struck by lightening. Think of success as a living thing. It’s something you have to chase around, capture, and hold on to. You gotta be smart about it, be careful and yet be willing to take necessary risks in order to achieve.

I say it again; it’s a lot of hard work.

But I need this.

I was nine when I read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and I’ve pretty much re-read it nearly once a year for a long time afterwards. At that point is when I wanted to write pirate stories. When I was twelve I got into mystery stories and loved creating my own. When I was fourteen I wrote a play for our local church and preformed it, which turned out to be a success. I did it again when I was sixteen. And for many years I continued to write and read, read and write.

Some of my happiest memories are from when I was writing. It has been such a big part of my life. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get to this place and I suspect there will be many more I’ll have to make to advance.

But here’s the gritty, gory truth- you will never get anything in life hoping for some magical Hallmark experience. When I succeed I will know it’s because I put my hand to the plow, through blood, sweat, and tears I made it happen.

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Take the risk, make the sacrifices. I can’t promises success. In fact, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Maybe all this will be for nothing. But in the end this is my dream becoming reality. The goal I’m reaching for.

What’s yours?


Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well

Robert Louis Stevenson