An Example of How Imagination Works – Jake and Scoop
I’ve always had a vivid imagination. I have many work passions, and fortunately I live a life where I can live out all of those passions… except for one, which is fiction writing, my very first passion. I still dabble in it when I have time, but I don’t have the time to fit it in these days. That’s the one curse of living a fantastic life; you don’t have time to do everything you want and have to prioritize. Harry Browne used to talk about this; how true freedom means your only big problem in life is that you have to choose the exciting things you should not do, because you can’t do everything you want. I’m definitely at that stage.
Over the course of my life, in my free time, I’ve written two fantasy novels, each one over 300 pages, and outlined and written one-third of a third, larger 1200 page novel (fantasy of course; my favorite genre by far). Unfortunately, novel writing is on hold, but it’s something I’ll get back into in a few years when I nail down a few more business goals. I’m dabbling with the idea of publishing short stories soon; not sure if I’ll do that or not. In the interim, I just announced my new book where I provide business and success advice in the guise of fiction. That’s as close as fiction writing as I can get at the moment.
An easy example of how my imagination works would be the story of Jake and Scoop. This is a game I used to play with my daughter when she was very little, around the age three and four. Jake and Scoop were two of my daughter’s “Beanie Baby” toys. Jake was a duck and Scoop was a pelican; they’re pictured above.
My daughter and I would regularly play “The Jake and Scoop Show.” This was a “show” starring Jake and Scoop, both of whom were controlled and voiced by me. It had its own theme song (sung by me), title sequence (orchestrated by me), and announcer (me). My daughter would control the guest characters that would visit Jake and Scoop or send them on crazy adventures. Usually these characters were horses, unicorns, or little stuffed dragons, and almost always female.
At first, we would just play around and Jake and Scoop were just two birds who talked. Over time though, Jake and Scoop started developing their own personality traits. Jake was irritable, anal, and had a very short temper. Jake was happy, silly, kind, and very stupid, often doing things like eating cactuses for lunch or trying to cook fried eggs on his head.
The two of them lived in an imaginary house where Jake had his own meticulous room. Scoop had his own room also, but never used it, preferring to sleep on the piano or inside the microwave, much to Jake’s never ending consternation.
Scoop was constantly screwing up and Jake was constantly getting pissed off at him. As retribution for being dumb, Jake would often devise weird, sadistic punishments for Scoop, like making him walk around on his head for the entire episode or riding their boat around in circles for a day. (They had a big lake in their backyard that was filled with raspberry lemonade instead of water.)
The guest stars would always show up (controlled by my daughter, who voiced the characters as well) and send Jake and Scoop on adventures that would range from things like searching for a lost rock in the post office to fighting Transformers in the middle of an active volcano.
Scoop was a lovesick beta male, and would always fall in love with any female guest star that would appear. He would always bug the female horses and dragons, asking them if they had a boyfriend, and then following them around like a puppy dog.
On the other hand, Jake was a MGTOW (before the term was invented) who hated girls. Whenever one showed up, he’d yell, “Ew! Girls!” then spit or puke, much like a six year-old boy on the playground. One day, a giant female crab fell in love with Jake, and he spent the entire episode running away from her, locking himself in various rooms in his house to escape. She would just crash through the doors and kept chasing him, trying to give him a kiss.
Eventually my daughter received another Scoop stuffed toy for her birthday or something, although a miniature version. This tiny Scoop became Scoop’s son (controlled by my daughter). There was no explanation for where he came from; one episode he was just there, living with Jake and Scoop. “Oh great,” said Jake, shaking his head. “Another one.”
Though childlike, Baby Scoop was very intelligent and just a little evil, often tricking his stupid dad as often as bailing him out of trouble. One day at the grocery store, Baby Scoop tricked Scoop into peeing into a potted plant, telling him it was a potty. Scoop did so to the raucous laughter of both Baby Scoop and Jake. (Part of the cool thing about making up your own TV show with your young daughter is that you can get away with things they don’t allow in kid’s cartoons.)
All of these characters, stories, and settings were complete, on-the-spot improvisations and not planned in any way. They just evolved over time, by themselves. When fiction writers talk about how books “write themselves” or how their characters “announce themselves” or tell the writer “how they should be,” it’s very true. Jake and Scoop is one simple example of this, but in my fiction writing over the years, it has happened many other times.
I suppose that only happens if you love writing. If you hate writing, this kind of spontaneity probably doesn’t come to you. Even Steven King has said in interviews that he has no idea where his ideas come from, but I think I know. They come from the fact that he loves to write fiction.