Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Writer's Cube

I have an email friend. We’ve emailed back and forth for a couple of years now, almost on a daily basis, but we’ve never met in person. We don’t talk much about writing. He’s not a writer, although his mother-in-law is. He’s into everything else though. I can’t even keep track of what all this “retired” man does. Sometimes we have one email going. Sometimes, like right now, there are about six threads. Our conversations usually end up taking giant leaps, as the one today did.

We’d been talking about one thing. Suduko I think, and somehow that led into the Rubick ’s Cube. After just a couple of emails about the Rubick’s Cube, we were off and running on the subject of politics in the Middle East. Okay, you had to be there to understand the leap.

But … the idea of how politics in the Middle East brought to mind the Rubick’s Cube made me visualize how plotting also can resemble the Rubick’s Cube.

Stay with me here.

Imagine the Rubick’s Cube. A block with different colored small squares. The colored squares are all mixed up and your job is to manipulate the squares until each of the six sides of the big block are one color.

It’s the same way with plotting. You have all these aspects you have to put together into a cohesive story: characters, plot points, story line threads, clues, foreshadowing, timeline, character connections, motivations, building suspense, etc. You have to get everything in. It’s got to all fit together seamlessly.

Before you start, it may resemble that mixed-up Rubick’s Cube straight out of the plastic wrapping. So, you start twisting and working with the plot. You finish writing and take a look at your Cube. But there are still squares in the wrong places. You start editing and get a few more squares into the right places. You let others read and critique. They help you move a few more squares into place.

You keep working on your plot until your Rubick’s Cube is done. Each side of the cube, each aspect of your plot, is right. Eventually, you take your cube and put it in a box and mail it to an agent to admire.

And the good news is that another way plotting is like manipulating a Rubick’s cube is that each time you practice, the cube, i.e. your writing, becomes easier to do. You learn; you grow as a writer.

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