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Monday, 26 August 2013

Gateways to our Imaginations

They call St. Louis, Missouri the Gateway to the West. It was the city settlers used to cross the Mississippi River and make their way into the western states to make names for themselves. St. Louis was a gateway to a new world, a different world than those people had been used to.

Anyone remember this movie? I have it on VHS, and would love to find it on DVD. The film is all about journeys, transitions, traversing; discovering. The manor in which the main character, Mary, lives in (which belongs to an uncle she’s never met) through the bulk of the film has several hidden doors. Mary finds a few of these doors and discovers her aunt’s old bedroom and finds her ill cousin, Colin. On the grounds of the manor, is, as the title states, a secret garden accessed by a hidden door. That door doesn’t remain hidden for long as Mary quickly finds it. As Mary journeys through each found door, she experiences, she learns something new. By the end of the film, her uncle learns how to laugh and she learns that she is loved, she learns how to love in return, she learns how to cry… But most importantly, she learns.

Doors and gateways are more than just openings between rooms or separate us from the outside world. They take us from one place to another. In the real world, they take us from the street into a warm coffeehouse in the winter time, or simply from the hallways of our houses into our bedrooms where we sleep off the events of the day. But in the world that is a writer’s imagination, doorways are so much more. When a character walks through a door, they can leave the chaos that is a busy downtown street and enter the calm that is a homely coffeehouse, and that change in atmosphere can change the mood of that character and change the way they think, change the way they feel about what is going on in their life. Perhaps that coffeehouse is one of the few places where they feel at ease and free to just relax and enjoy a cup of their favourite flavoured coffee. Maybe it’s the place where everybody knows your character’s name, where they’re not just one of a thousand employees, but they are Jim, Bob, Evelyn or Tracy. Maybe it is the one place Bob can just be himself, the place where Tracy doesn’t have to conform to everyone’s standards, the sanctuary where Jim doesn’t have to follow the rules and the place where Evelyn can unwind and do whatever the heck she wants to do. Maybe this is the place where Jim, Bob, Evelyn and Tracy meet and relax. Perhaps they met each other here and they meet at the same table in the same corner every weekend to catch up on each other’s lives. And all of that happened because they walked through that coffeehouse door.

Behind every door is a world different from the one outside it. Your bedroom has a different feel than your kitchen or living room. It is probably painted your favourite colour, or maybe there’s a theme going on. Either way, your bedroom is your sanctuary, your private place where you can sleep and perchance to dream. You cook in your kitchen, dine in your dining room, watch TV in your living room and you sleep in your bedroom. Each room is its own little world with its own purpose in your daily life. In writing, these rooms have their own atmosphere, and can depict the tone of a scene.

In the realm of fantasy, gateways take us to far off places and even distant times. The Sci-fi show, Stargate SG-1 used a star gate to traverse from Earth to the planet of the week in each episode. That gateway took the Stargate team to another world. Sometimes that world was really not so different from their own. Doorways are special tools in writing because so much can be done with them. All it takes is some unsuspecting character to stumble upon a hidden door and for that character to let curiosity take over, and boom; you’ve taken that character, and your audience, into another world. Perhaps, that world is hundreds of thousands of miles away. Maybe that world is their own world but 100 years in the past or 50 years in the future.

Gateways allow us to travel between this world and other, and because of that, they are pretty special things. Without the rabbit hole and this little bitty door, Alice would never have made it into Wonderland. Without the wardrobe, the Pevenseys wouldn’t have fulfilled the prophecy in Narnia. Those doorways were important to those stories because they led us into the world of imagination. Imagination will take us anywhere and everywhere if we let it. My imagination is pretty expansive and I wouldn’t want it any other way. My imagination is my gateway into the places my stories are set in and it is how I escape the chaos that is real life. I believe imagination allows us to think about things differently; it gives us a new perspective on things. 

I wonder what's behind this door...

Imagination is both a place and our passage to that place. Allow yourself a trip on the ship Imagination and let it take you to Imagination Isle. It will be a wonderful trip, maybe the best you’ve ever been on. It is a place that will always be there and, when you leave, will be awaiting your return.