46. Imagination

‘Imagination rules the world.’

Do you know who said that? If you didn’t, would you have guessed a soldier, an imperialist, a political pragmatist, a controlling megalomaniac patriot?

Napoleon Bonaparte said that. I like to think that he meant that what you can’t imagine, you won’t achieve. That would sit well with another of his remarks:

‘Impossible n’est pas français.’

Next time you have some writing time, you might want to try this set of imaginative exercises.

Find a school photo. It might be one from your own schooldays. Perhaps it is from your parents’ era or something found in an old book. Or your child’s class at school.

Look at each face in turn and choose, for each one, a career, a pet, a dream, a car, a partner. Perhaps the partners are also in the class. Devise a way for them to come together – a party, a chance meeting, an accident, a shared workplace. Choose another of those earnest, fresh young faces. How does this new character fit in with the first two? For good or ill?

Then choose a place and a time: a dinner party on New Year’s Eve, in the stands of a football stadium waiting for the police to allow the fans to go home, in three tiny seats on a cheap airline flight. Squeeze your characters together in this imaginary set piece and push them towards that conclusion you just thought of … for good or ill.

Then, if you wish to, write down your ideas.

Or start again with some new faces.

Or put it aside.

‘Imagination rules the world.’