I know this lyric because it was the subject of one of my astronomy classes in college, taught by the unspeakably awesome Dr. Möbius, whose soothing German accent could turn utterly terrifying when he talked about DON'T PLAGIARIZE WE WILL FIND YOU. (He's now part of something called the Experimental Space Plasma Group. In comparison, I belong to the Dragon Age Alistair Fan Club.)
|Not even an actual human being.|
Sometimes, someone's imagination is described as "boundless" as well. It's an interesting word, meaning both "immense" and "unlimited," free of boundaries. I don't think anyone's imagination is truly boundless; we are all a product of our experiences and observations, and these inform how we think about the world as well as how we perceive it. But some people -- especially children -- seem to have fewer imaginative boundaries than the rest of us.
|Thank God she doesn't have access to the Large Hadron Collider.|
There are rules in fiction -- boundaries -- and we need to understand why these rules are in place; they don't just materialize out of the ether. Continually switching tense, for instance, makes your story difficult to read. Giving two or more of your characters the same name might be confusing. Of course, for every rule there is someone famous who has broken it and a hundred undergrads who feel this gives them permission to break it, too.
|"Punctuation isn't real, man."|
When I was in middle school, I wrote a story about the President of the United States locking himself in the bathroom and refusing to come out, and the government trying desperately to cover it up and finally resorting to installing a lookalike in the Oval Office to prevent the collapse of the nation. Would I write this story now? Maybe not. There are loads of flaws. Loads. Starting with my decision to spend three paragraphs describing the First Lady, who is fat and annoying, slowly being engulfed by a bean bag chair while the Head of the CIA looks on, refusing to help because she's so fat and annoying. I don't know if I would give myself permission to write this story now.
But when I was eleven? HELL YEAH, MORE BEAN BAG CHAIR!
|This picture of Terry Pratchett was honestly one of the top results |
for my Creative Commons search, "Bean Bag Chair."
What does it mean??
|My junior high students, unfettered by rules about not going through my purse.|
Pictured: a bus ticket, toothpaste, and my driver's license.
I was having a problem with the ending of Shoes. The plot centers on a Royal Shoemaking Contest sponsored by Queen Cinderella (shoes are a big deal in her kingdom), and what I wanted to happen was for crazy old Mr. Twinkle and his living frog shoes to initially win the contest, but for him to be unable to fulfill his duties, thus making our heroine, who had gotten second place, the ultimate winner.
But how was I to get Mr. Twinkle out of the picture? I couldn't come up with a satisfactory solution. So I brought the issue before the cast, ages 7-16.
This was a non-issue to them. "He gets eaten by a dragon."
They had no boundaries. Never mind the fact that this would happen at the ball, or that there had previously been no mention of a dragon, or that how the heck are we going to stage that without scarring small children? It was simple, tidy, and apparently self-evident to anyone unencumbered by practicality or logic.
It was absolutely right.
The dragon now has a prominent role in the show, and one of the characters even sings a lullaby to him:
. . . No more knights to fight today,
No more maidens fair,
No pestilence and rank decay
To spread everywhere.
Calm your claws,
Lower your great head,
Later you may
But now it's time for bed.
So my writing mission is to get rid of as many boundaries as I can. Sanity can come later, but I'm not going to let it onto my laptop at the expense of what is right.
Sometimes, a ravenous dragon is the answer.
|You're welcome, literature.|