Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for...imagination, updated

This post was originally published in 2013, when I first participated in the A-Z Blog challenge. I think it still stands, so I offer it again, updated for 2016.

I’m participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge throughout April.
Monday - something light to start the week. A bit of self-care, creativity challenge or the like.
Tuesday - telling notes for a specific story or kind of story. Tips and tricks to help you think about what you're telling and how.
Wednesday - my usual #tellinglife post, looking at some of the more personal aspects of storytelling and its role in my life.
Thursday - a dip into some of the issues facing contemporary storytelling or a dive into some of the more unusual applications of storytelling.
Friday - my usual personal post about life following the death of my husband
Saturday - the storytelling coach offers a tip you can use right now. An example of the kinds of tools I encourage my students to use.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
- Albert Einstein

My favorite toy in the world is my imagination. As a storyteller, I get to play with my imagination and the imaginations of my listeners every day. It delights me and I hope it delights you.

Imagination is essential for any storytelling experience. Every time I work on a story I draw on my imagination for images across the range of my sensory experience, so I can more fully paint the work I share with my listeners.

There is a world of difference between
Once upon there was an old woman who lived in a house
Once upon a time there was an old woman with a red, floury apron and a three-legged dog. They lived together in a crooked house. 

When I was in fifth grade I got picked on
When I was in fifth grade I got used to the teasing about my ratty clothing. It was when they said I smelled that I felt my eyes begin to sting.

The additional detail in both of these examples comes from imagining the scene with more clarity and deciding which images I want to share with my audience.

You need to have clear images in your own mind to be able to convey them to your audience. As you develop your story, ask yourself questions like:
  • What color clothing did the main characters wear? Did they chafe? Were they new or old?
  • How did the environment smell?
  • Was it warm or cold? Raining? Clear?
  • What did the inside of the porridge bowl look like? Was Red's cloak lined with satin? What color were Granny's eyes?
Draw upon all of your senses to imagine a scene. Move beyond sight. 
  • How did the Beast smell?
  • What was the texture of your fifth grade desk? If you don't know, make it up!
  • Did your grandfather's fingers hurt when he worked? How did that feel?
  • What did Persephone's pomegranate seeds taste like?
Imagination is like any other skill. You need to practice to keep it agile and robust. Children have wonderful imaginations because they haven't yet bought the lie that they need to color within the lines. I urge you to stretch your imagination every single day. Your world will become more interesting and amusing if you do so. I love stretching  my imagination with games like these:
  • Next time you're on public transit, look only at people's feet. Pick one pair of shoes and make up two stories about the wearer, one you think might be right and one you think is outrageously wrong. Then look at the rest of the person and decide which might be closer to the truth.
  • Next time you're in slow traffic imagine you're in a very, very slow road race. Become the announcer.
  • Go into a room you visit every day. Lie down on the floor and study the ceiling, something you likely ignore. Forget about the cobwebs - what other kinds of rooms could that ceiling belong to?
  • Get some construction paper and crayons. Draw out the images from your stories. Map out the journey. See where you might go.
  • Buy a coloring book and pull out your crayons again. Spend a little while with purple zebras, drawing in the background on the pages, going outside the lines.
When we deeply imagine something, when we populate it thoroughly with images across our senses and experiences, we make it live. We become better storytellers because the audience knows we believe what we're saying, that we have seen it, smelled it, tasted, heard and touched it. They imagine with us and we move into new worlds together.

(c)2013 and 2016 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. What a fun post! And the whole series has been a wonderful addition to the study of the art.

    1. Thank you, Norah. I'm really having fun with this. I'm looking forward to my F-J summary for massmouth tomorrow!

  2. Yes, imagination is the best of friends, isn't she/he?
    Melanie Schulz from


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