John Carter and the stretching of imagination

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of watching John Carter, a movie about a man who finds himself transported to Mars. The story isn’t that complicated. John Carter finds himself the savior of two warring races. He falls in love with the princess and they get married. Between all of that, adventures and shenanigans ensue. But that’s not what I’m blogging about today.

I want to blog about stretching your imagination.

One of the reasons why I like watching movies like John Carter is because I sit in the theatre in awe of the creativity and imagination of whoever created the story. John Carter is only one example. I’m also referring to Avatar, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, basically any fantasy or sci-fi movie/story you can think of.

Can you just imagine the kind of imagination it takes to not only create a world around your characters, but to also create their own society, culture, traditions, and their own language? It’s the kind of creativity and imagination I aspire to.

When I first started writing, I was a big fan of fantasy novels. I gorged myself on anything Raymond E. Feist or David Eddings. I thought to myself, I’ll write a fantasy novel too. Oh was I over reaching. It slowly dawned on me the intricacies involved in writing a novel along the scale of a fantasy, especially if you’re thinking high fantasy. Sometimes I wonder what George R.R. Martin was thinking about when he was writing The Game of Thrones series. That’s an epic series right there. James Cameron took close to twenty years to make Avatar from conception to the actual film.

John Carter may not be as grand as the examples I have mentioned in this post so far, but the details were spectacular. The tattoos. The world Mars was made to be. The armor. The flying machines that vaguely resemble dragonflies. I mean everything you see in the movie is a variation of something familiar, but the changes to the familiar are what make the movie what it is—an enjoyable watch.

How far would you stretch your imagination? Would you try to invent a language the way Tolkien did? Would you create a world from scratch and fill it with all the little details needed to bring it to life? I guess that’s why there are pages upon pages within fantasy that describe nothing but the landscape.

I wonder if I could do it. When I was younger, I thought I certainly could. Now that I know better and I’ve learned a thing or two, can I actually follow through with writing something on such a grand scale?

When world building, everything has to have a name for it to exist. It’s part of what makes us human, the naming of things. So if we as writers want to create our own world, not only do we have to be innovative in our thinking, we must also stretch our imagination farther than what we think are its limits. I wonder how it feels to think in such grandiose terms? To give birth to a new species? To create a culture with its own traditions?


  1. Edgar Rice Burroughs was the author who first got me interested in reading, and every now and then I go back to re-read one of his novels for old times' sake. Must see this movie. Regarding inventing languages, you might like a reader review I did on one of his Venus books here:

    1. John Carter actually bombed at the box office for some reason. And thanks for the link. I'll check it out.


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