I don't have any particular pictures for this blog, so they'll be random choices.
I've really enjoyed reading through everyone's lovely stories about cats and kittens. Someone said that they were surprised that I'd never had a cat, as I wrote about them well. Thanks for that. :) I have been around cats, of course, but there is an ability writers have -- to be able to believably construct things about which we don't have strong personal knowledge. I suspect all writers have it when they start out, but that it gets stronger the more we write.
I remember a piece on the radio years ago. It was a CBC show called Morningside, hosted by Peter Gzowski, who had been a journalist, and the author was Margaret Attwood. He complimented her on the realism of scenes set in a '60s newsroom and asked if she'd ever been a reporter. If not, how had she done it? She replied, "Imagination, Peter. Imagination!"
(The picture is of Torcross, Devon.
It'll be a lot busier now, but still, it's an amazing thing to come across in what seems to be the middle of nowhere.)
I'm not sure I completely agree with the word. I think of imagination as something I use to weave stories, and it can be literally out of nothing. If I sit here now and come up with a story about two non-human, non-humanoid characters from a fantasy world that bears little resemblance to earth, it's going to be a feat of almost pure imagination. It wouldn't be particularly difficult. Making it into a good story that earth-based readers would enjoy would be the trick, because I think we all enjoy fiction that has strong ties to realities we understand, otherwise it's too difficult a constructive task. Would you agree?
This ability to create a reality we don't really know is something else, because we use a whole lot of stuff. We go through life gathering stuff. No, not the knick-knacks and clothes we'll never wear again -- our experiences. Every moment of every day, new things stick. Most of them we don't even remember. But if we're a writer, they magically bubble up when needed.
I don't think I could create an impressively real '60s newsroom because I haven't got enough stuff about it. I don't even watch movies or TV programmes set in news rooms as it's not all that interesting to me. That's probably why I don't write stories likely to be in newsrooms! If I were likely to write such stories, I would have been interested in newsrooms all along. If you follow me.
I have been interested in history all along. English history. Roughly 1100 to 1820. Really interested, really all along. As far back as I can remember. As a child I headed straight for the old and ran around gathering as much as I could, and I've been doing it ever since.I bet all historical writers did this, because we end up choosing to write stories set in worlds we can never actually live in. We have to use this ability to alchemically change a load of stuff into a believable reality for our readers.
We need a name for this ability. Anyone want to have a go at coming up with one?
Of course we research, too -- that is, go in search of information we know we need to know. We also deliberately expose ourselves to books, screens, and places where there's likely to be loads of the right stuff just waiting to glom onto us. Period houses, costume galleries, old inns, old streets, and every museum that comes within our radar.
(This picture is a fireplace in the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight. A wonderful place to stuff-gather. They also have on line podcasts of talks about some of their works, such as one about a Holbein portrait of Henry VIII. Check out the site.)
But at the end, we can't research every moment, every step. At least, I can't. In the end I have to write the story, and that means surrendering to the creative flow. Going with my characters, hanging on for dear life. I can't be constantly doing reality checks about shoes, cups, staircases, street surfaces etc etc, never mind the feel of things. Not just the smells, which can be researched, but which smells that character would notice in that place at that moment.
But you know, we mostly get it right. Authors will often mention this. Sometimes there's a detail we need to know and we go looking for it. Exhaustive searches fail to reveal it. So we make it up. We take our best guess and carry on. Then later we come across that detail, and we got it right! Magic?
In a sense, yes. But really it's the stuff. When we make that best guess, we're doing it based on everything we know by deliberate research and a lifetime of stuff. We might have a hole in our knowledge, but all around the hole is knowledge, and tho boundaries of a hole tells us a lot. Some would say that the universe is actually the space between the stuff. It comes to the same thing in the end.
I started out with cats and kittens, didn't I, and drifted far afield.
I've had a great time reading over the cat stories again and I thank you all for sharing them. The random pick was easy. That turned out to be the very first comment from Danielle, so one kitten is Georgie.
Choosing the other was very hard.
I was very taken by some names -- Catullus in particular, especially as the companion cat is Isabella, my heroine's name. Of course Sherlock Holmes and the Duke of Wellington just won't do. I loved the bossy cats, and the saucy cats, and the cats who think they're dogs. Not to mention the rabbit! And I love that Louis had Manx cats, and that Ink the guard cat could growl loudly enough to scare away burglars.
It was an impossible choice, but in the end I picked this, fairly short one, from Dorotha Holloway.
"Our 14 year old "Sable the Unstable" stable cat, lost her life in a auto accident May 5th. She gained her title as a 4 week old abandoned kitten. My daughter smuggled her in with our 4 datseys and she grew up thinking she was a hound. She loved rolling in mud, chasing horses, and seekning up on unsuspecting humans. We miss her very much, the only other member of the cat family I have ever known was a blue Manx that was know as Smoke to all who met him."
(Picture on right is of a British uniform. It's from the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Another excellent place to visit.)
Three simple things came together here for me. At 4 weeks, Sable was about the age of Tabby's kittens when she was lucky enough to find a great home. She died very recently. And Dorotha also had a Manx cat. I do also like the idea of a cat who chases horses, though what the horses made of it, I have no idea. :)
So, Danielle and Dorotha, the kittens are Georgie and Sable. Georgie after the king, I'm sure. I'm assuming for now that Sable is very black and sleek. Borrowing from some other posts, I think he or she is the non-Manx and very proud of its tail.