A Wayward Imagination

I’ve become conscious of the fact that setting one’s fantasy in a world heavily based on medieval Europe is a major cliché, one that’s as tired and shopworn as major clichés tend to be. Fantasies set in different times and places are praised for it, with what comes across to me as great sighs of relief and cries of joy: Something new, something different, oh happy day.

Because I don’t want to traffic in tired and shopworn goods, I try not to set my stories in places whose roots are in European history. The problem is that England from the 12th to 16th centuries has soaked into my imagination, fed by reading that started when I was ten years old. That’s decades of reading. So despite all my efforts to move my stories somewhere else, my imagination turns to places and ways of being it knows well and is drawn to. I could fight it — in fact I’ve tried — but now I’m throwing in the towel. I’m not winning, and the harder I push, the more deeply my imagination digs in its heels, refusing to be give me the anything at all. 

(In case you’re surprised by the way I’m talking about my imagination, as if it has an independent will, well, it feels that way, so it might as well be true… )

So, if I can’t avoid cliché in my story world, what can I do?

Make it fresh, for one thing. Reimagine everything. My imagination makes changes; follow those to see where they lead. Don’t attach to anything; let things grow and develop the way they seem to want to. Take advantage of the waywardness of my imagination, and see what happens.

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