All writers are Pythias by default. The moment writers create fiction rather than fact they produce what does not exist: what was future a moment ago becomes past on the page. The capacity they use is the imagination. It is the essential, indispensable tool of creative penmanship. One way to develop this ability is through the making of metaphoric stories.
The process is simple. Students start with an image in their mind’s eye. This image is then further developed and eventually unfolds into a story.
The challenge for the writer is to use imagination rather than intellect, to think in pictures rather than concepts. To do this is not easy. To allow an image to freely unfold is a fine art that requires practice.
The process is rarely smooth. Most students will experience a definite struggle between their intellect and their imagination. The mindset they already have will battle with the one they aspire to. This results in tales fathered by the intellect: The plot feels pre-planned; the outcome is predictable. The composition is deficient in wholeness and the writing lacks lustre.
The reason for this is reliance on linear thinking, and the scientific paradigm that underpins it. Creative writers, of course, are not necessarily scientists. Yet they, like everyone else, have imbibed the scientific paradigm. Like a fish in water they are unaware of the water that is in and around them. The moment they engage their imagination in earnest, the intellectual habits they have, or rather that have them, show forth.
A creative writing teacher can usually tell when this happens. After a while students will start to notice it in the work of their fellow writers. In time they will come to recognise it in their own writing, in hindsight at first and eventually during the process of writing itself. Then they are not far from allowing the image to develop of its own accord, without interference from the intellect or subjective psychology. The former ties the writer to collective conventions, the latter to her personal story. Both relate to the past.
Both are left behind the moment the writer stays fully present in the forming of images. The metaphoric mind, rather than relying on what already is, is open to the future. Undetermined by what is known, the imagination engages with the here and now of everything new. The moment they are able to live into one image and then see it through to the next, their writing becomes fresh. The plot, though unpredictable, possesses a logic of its own. Beginning, middle and end form an admirable arc. Every part of the story resonates with every other and reveals an indivisible totality. Everywhere is necessity and nowhere coercion. This is the natural state of a tale that has been allowed to unfold on its own accord.
The end of such stories is both surprising and obvious. Surprising because there was no way of foreseeing it. It’s obvious because it fits seamlessly with the arc of the tale.
A good story achieves this by means of metaphor, firstly, through the ability of metaphors to unite separate things. This ability allies them to what is already united and intrinsically whole, the reality that constitutes mind and language, nature and myth.
And secondly through the innate mobility that allows them to resonate with the future. The future is never fixed. It remains alive, changeable, fluid. Concepts are often too rigid to go with this flow. They hear the message they want to hear.
In this, metaphors differ radically from concepts. Rather than being like moulds that shape everything according to their own design, they are like wax willing to be given shape. They are fluid, mobile and flexible like the future itself and hence uniquely suited to express what wishes to come. Unfettered by the past they are open to what is new. They are organs through which the future can articulate itself.