What an eerie path to take.

Every author has a different metaphor for what it’s like writing a novel or creating a story or even outlining a story. Stephen King said in his memoir On Writing that he approaches writing like an archaeologist uncovers an artifact, finding the top of it sticking out of the dirt and then carefully chipping and dusting away to uncover the rest of it. I guess that means His Royal Creepiness likes to come up with the story as he writes it and doesn’t plan too far ahead, but whether or not he does, he’s almost always brilliant with it.

Another author, I forget who but I’m pretty sure they were Freshly Pressed for writing an article on this, once compared writing to putting together a sandwich. You have a bunch of different ingredients, and it’s up to you as the chef of this particular sandwich to make it into a delicious meal that people will want to savor and discuss for hours to come. Like I said, I can’t remember who this author was, so I can’t tell you whether or not they were brilliant at it, but they certainly can create a compelling metaphor.

And there are plenty of other metaphors that one author could apply to the writing of a novel: mixing an interesting cocktail; building a house; decorating a room; putting together a collage; building a Rube Goldberg device (I love those things!) and then some, on and on, etc. Each author probably has their own metaphor that relates to their own process.

How some people see writing a novel: building one of these.

I thought about this a lot while I was writing the outline for my thesis Rose, especially since during the early stages of writing the outline I had a lot of trouble figuring out where to go with the story after the first chapter or two. And after a lot of thought, a bi of frustration, and finally typing out a sixteen-page outline complete with short character bios, I finally figured it out. To me, writing is like sending my characters down a path in a heavily wooded forest, and letting them find the way to the end.

I think this has a lot to do with the many philosophers, musicians, and others who have said “Life is a road/path/journey”. For me, I’m seeing the path my characters are traveling on as they move through the story, meeting each obstacle, struggling against their own darkness and striving to be better people. And sometimes, this metaphor takes on a much more…I guess literal tone. For example, those of you who’ve read my novel Snake know it takes place in and around New York City (for those of you who haven’t, now you know). In a strange way, I see the path the Snake takes, not just the one in the woods but how he travels from location to location and scene to scene. I see what he does to get from Point A and Victim 1 to Point B and Victim 2, and from there to Point C and Victim 3 and so on and so forth, whether he’s driving a stolen car or walking through a dark neighborhood or using a disguise to figure out what his next move will be. (Right now, someone is reading this post and hears this description of Snake and is either deciding the book’s not for them or they’re strangely intrigued and want to find out more. I hope it’s the latter).

This “path” metaphor gets even more literal in some of my other works. In Video Rage, the sequel to Reborn City which I’ve begun editing, most of the novel is spent on the open road, so those characters of mine aren’t just on a path with many twists and turns in a metaphorical sense. They’re really on that road!

Which to take to get a better story?

Whether in a metaphorical or a literal sense though, writing like my characters are on a road or a path helps me visualize where my characters and the story are going and where I ulitmately want them to go. During the writing of the outline for Rose, there were several paths that the story could have gone on, and in the early parts I couldn’t figure out where to go. Some of those paths I tried, and I ended up not liking the direction the story would’ve gone down if I went down those paths. Thankfully I ended up taking the right path around the third or fourth attempt, and things got a lot easier from there on out. I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of the path I took with this story, and the others I’ve written.

What do you think of this metaphor for writing?

What metaphor do you like to use? What are some others that you’ve heard that you agree with?

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