I received “Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction” by Jeff Vandermeer as one of my Christmas gifts. I had heard wonderful things about this book and having finished two chapters so far, it’s fantastic. It’s bright, the illustrations are fantastic and the information contained within is compelling. It doesn’t lecture at you, it provides ideas, drawings, paintings, random works of art that tingle the mind and make you ask questions. It provides structure to the structureless creative process without putting it into a lifeless cage or turning it into a methodical machine.
The first chapter, “Inspiration and the Creative Life” is a great example of what I’m talking about. It provides strategies for jump-starting inspiration and talks about where inspiration comes from, with a couple essays from other writers about it. That’s another great thing packed in the book, thoughtful essays by authors about the various subjects. This chapter is informative, attempting to break down Inspiration outputs and inputs. It delves into how the creative mind can explore, inspirations leading to more successive inspirations. Though some might find it basic information, it provides a framework of inspiration and provides tools to inspire yourself.
It also provides writing prompts to stir the creative blender of the mind and I figured, having a blog and all, I would write about my journey through the Wonderbook, post my response to the book as I go through it and also my responses to the writing exercises within.Another bonus with the book is it provides a website with additional information in various subjects. It has web extras, a writing ‘exercise room’, and more, much of it input from other authors. It’s a very cool way to make the book seem more open, vast and exciting. The information is valuable. While reading Chapter 1, I came across this writing exercise:
Write a story about that picture. Now, after writing out a story (which wasn't easy), I read the original story based off the picture and saw many little details I'd missed. Isn't that always the case? You see the details you missed after you completed the task?
The original story kicked mine's ass, being a fictional (and awesome) history of the picture and its creator. You can read it here. You can read my short short story below:
A pile of books lay open and scattered in a haphazard manner. They’d been poured over, notes scrawled across them, coffee spilled over them, pages ripped and torn.
“Finally,” the wizard said. “Finally.” He held a bunch of umbrellas under one arm. He wasn’t sure why but he wasn’t going to let it distract him. He’d studied the books of power. He knew the words of summoning. He stood in the garden in filthy unwashed clothing and laughed. They’d called him a crackpot, harebrained and crazy. They hadn’t let him into the Wizard Academy, saying he had no magical talent. The fools. He’d show them. Days of research, of little to no sleep, of practicing incantation after incantation. Finally, the time was ready.
He raised one hand into the air, eyes ruddy and face pale. He spoke a slurry of arcane words, and then, the summoning chant. “Bezedal! I summon you from the depths of the Gates of Helloth! Hear me and answer! Hear me and be mine to command! I SUMMON YOU!” The wind whirled about him, howling, a piercing cry rising in the air. “I SUMMON YOU!” He called out again, raising his hand higher. “HEAR ME AND OBEY!”
The cry grew louder and mist rose from the ground.
The wizard looked on, eyes widening, smile growing larger. “I SUMMON YOU! BRING ME POWER! BRING DEATH AND SHAME TO MY ENEMIES! MY FOES WILL KNEEL BEFORE YOU!”
A flash of white erupted, blinding the wizard. The wind died, a hushed silence falling.
The wizard blinked his eyes a few times, his muscles tense.
A fish as tall as a man stood in front of him, with large fins spread out to either side. The fish gawped at the wizard, mouth opening and closing.
The wizard sighed and dropped his hand.
The fish fell over and flopped on the ground.
“Oh to hell with it,” the wizard said and went inside.