by Julia Buckley
I've always loved going to the zoo, because I think it feeds my writer's creativity. After all, who could conceive of something like a giraffe? A tapir? A penguin? If we had never seen one, would we really believe in it if we read about it in a book?
I think that too often I may discard an idea because people might not find it realistic enough. There was always a rule in my writer's group that you weren't allowed to say, in defense of a weird story detail, "But this really happened to me!" If enough members of the group found it unrealistic, it had to go. After all, the reader needs a sense of authenticity.
But what about those zoo animals? They are amazing creations, totally unexpected living things that show us the wild diversity of nature and the imagination of God. I often feel that my own imagination needs a jump start, that I've stagnated a bit in terms of creative vision.
Therefore, a visit to the zoo tends to remind me that any wild, glorious thought I have which seems too much out of the bounds of authenticity shouldn't immediately be chucked away. Harry Potter would never have been written if J.K. Rowling feared that some of her details might seem odd. Of course they're odd--delightfully odd! She was brilliant to create them, but brave to put them out there before the public. And of course her creative risk paid off, because although she created an alternate world and some brand new lingo, she did it with enough style and talent that people couldn't wait to be admitted to that world, again and again.
Soon I'll be on spring break, and one task on the vacation agenda is a visit to Brookfield Zoo. I'm hoping that as always it will get my creative juices flowing, not only because of all the wonderful animals I'll see in a rich visual display, but because of the human animals on the other side of the fence--who also bear watching and provide wonderful character ideas. :)