The premise of this article is that imagination is the fuel of good fiction writing. To be sure, there are many other important, even necessary components that the author must possess and bring to bear, but they all emanate from imagination, without which creative writing is unattainable.

When all are present and put into action then there is a synergistic effect, such that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. These include motivation, discipline, commitment, perseverance, grammar, practice, and, of course, talent. Without such elements as motivation and perseverance, talent will lie dormant. But without imagination, talent will lack the spark to spawn a captivating or mesmerizing story.

Imagination is unique. It is unconquerable, as even a person confined to a cell can take leave by conjuring up its magic. Yet, paradoxically, its possessor must choose to release it, to allow it to roam freely beyond the world that surrounds us; to pull together elements we are already familiar with and assemble them in ways that we are unfamiliar with; to invent new characters that had never existed before and endow them with their own personalities; and to create stories that never happened, yet which have the power to move the reader to tears, anger, inspiration, action, and transformation.

The power of imagination is infinite. It not only flows from the writer, but it also enters the reader, stirring her imagination. When that happens, the reader swells with the capacity to transcend her own world, regardless of how mundane or exciting it may be.

It opens up new perspectives and possibilities. Imagination in play may lead to new lands of emotion, thought, and spirituality. The reader is not only affected, but the writer herself may enter new realms of insight into self, others, and the world; the world as the writer knows it and the world that the writers imagination has created.

The author must not allow the rules of her craft to shackle her endeavors. Learn them, yes. Then, once they have become an integral part of ones unconscious, allow ones imagination to soar beyond them without restraint. Trust that they, the rules, will know when to exercise their rightful place in the universe of the authors process.

Columbus never set out to discover America when going to sea. In fact, the rules of the day suggested that if one were to go too far out to sea, an endpoint would be reached, beyond which the ship and its voyagers would descend to some dreaded unknown place.

It took courage and faith to embark on the journey. Those same attributes are to be found in the writer who sets out, armed with her imagination, to write a novel, even though the true course of the excursion and its real ending may not yet be envisioned, despite beliefs to the contrary. The writers imagination instills the faith to begin and the courage to continue persevering.

No one lacks imagination. It is an inherent part of our makeup. Some may not conceive of themselves as possessing it and others may be deluded into believing that it is absent in them. For those people, their conception of its presence must be expanded, for the former, or the distortion of its absence must be corrected for the latter. Otherwise, writers who fall into either category will be reduced to the bane of repetition and confined to the limitations of the formulaic.

Some people think of problem solving as requiring imagination. And it does. However, the next level is that of “problem finding.” When writing the novel, the author will stumble across many problems to be solved, but to enhance her story she must also exercise her imagination to find new problems to incorporate into her work, if the final product is to be enhanced to become the most that it is capable of becoming.

The atrophy or lack of its use is sometimes self-imposed. There is an old vignette about a huge gorilla that had been captured in Africa and brought to America for exhibit in a zoo. The gorilla had been temporarily placed in a cage while around the cage there was built an expansive “natural” environment for it to live in. When the construction was completed, the gorilla was removed from the cage.

However, each step the gorilla took was limited to the same space and size of the cage it had lived in, even though it was now free to roam around the vast territory that had been constructed to accommodate it.

Humans sometimes suppress the freedom of their own imagination, hence refusing to go beyond what is immediately present to their sensory apparatus, failing to invent new images that extend beyond the familiar and known, neglecting to visualize alternate worlds outside the realm of that within which they live. The creative writer must not restrain her imagination like the gorilla in the fable, not taking advantage of the freedom he had been endowed with, for imagination is the touchstone of creativity.