No, all ye 'baby-boomers' like me, I'm not referring to George Reeves in his Superman outfit (with that slightly middle-aged paunch that always made me giggle).
I'm referring to something that would have had the Man from Krypton green, not from Kryptonite, but from envy; something that could have made the atom bomb look like a penny cracker.
Imagination: the most powerful force in existence outside of God, and capable of performing such miracles as turning a single raindrop into a world-engulfing torrent, or creating an army so huge, so fearsome that no creature to ever live would have dared challenge it.
I often think the modern-day creators of those fantastic and unbelievable creatures, machines, worlds, and other bits and pieces found in the lab of a set creator from Hollywood have made a mistake by not leaving more to the imagination of the film-buff. Are we not capable of creating creatures and places in our imaginations that no Hollywood genius could ever hope to put together? Don't believe me? Close your eyes, and conjure up the most hideous, fearsome, terrifying, blood-thirsty and totally unstoppable creature you can...then ask yourself: could Stephen Spielberg create this, if I described it for him?
But where do those scenes and sets found in our imaginations come from? For some writers, they come from gazing out of the window and dreaming; I know of others who keep a box of trinkets - nuts, old nails, pieces of sea-shell, bent pennies, literally anything that is small and can be placed inside a small box along with another hundred or so oddities, then taken out at odd times and gazed at...until whatever it is you hold in your hand triggers some hidden neuron in the brain, and up pops a story, or perhaps just a sentence, or a title, or maybe even a word or name...and from that grows a 50,000 word tale that will entertain a reader for hours, days, weeks, depending on how busy their own lives are.
In my case, I'm afraid I can't tell you where my stories come from...not because I don't want to, or because it's currently listed under the national secrets seal, but simply because I don't know!
Sometimes, all I have to start with is an image...say, a monstrous, fanged, blazing-eyed werewolf clinging to the very pinnacle of a church spire, and searching the streets below for its next victim. Sometimes, it's no more than the title; at other times, it may be no more than a word. Yet I know that if I sit down at my computer and place my fingers on the keys, the words will come...even though, as I place my fingertips down, those words are nowhere in sight!
And here I make a confession: I have never planned a story in my life. I don't know how the story will end; I don't know who will survive; I don't even know what I will write tomorrow in my usual five-hour stint. I only know that when I awake and grab my cup of coffee and sit down, turn on my machine, and place my fingers on the keyboard, the words will come, from where I know not. And I also know that when I finish the story and then set myself, some days later, to read back through it, each little twist, each tiny deviation from the plot, will work and will fit just as if it all came from the most finely detailed blueprint ever drawn.
Of course, there are hours of research involved, because I love writing in the past - the 17th or 18th century usually - and in different countries, which obviously means research. But even that is fun. It's fun to find out when the first match to light a pipe with was created, and what people used before it was invented; it's fun to dig into what people wore in those days. It's even fun to find out what kitchen maids did with the washing-up water (assuming they washed up, of course) after they'd used it...in fact, it's what happened to dirty water that caused us to adopt the good manners to ensure a lady walked on the inside of the footpath whilst ye gents walked on the outside (so that if any poor sod was to wear a face-full of filthy water, it was the male).
But at the end of the day, it all comes right back to imagination, that tool we all possess, and without which there would be no writers...in fact, there'd be not much of anybody, when you think about it.
Imagination...what a gift it was! A gift beyond price. And I thank God He saw fit to give it to us.
It may seem unusual, but I'm just taking the short route to advise all that my email address has changed.
It is now firstname.lastname@example.org