Creating the Puzzle

I used to think writing was like putting together a puzzle: figuring out which scenes go where, how the characters interact with each other (and with the writer and readers), and so forth, all the way down to how the words sound together on the page.

Now I think writing is more like creating the puzzle. You start out with a clear image of what you want to achieve with the story. You can see the action in your mind’s eye, and it looks so amazingly epic that you can’t wait to start writing. But you have to break that big-picture image apart into many smaller images. Perhaps these are your characters or your scenes or your pieces of narration.

So the image that you had gets all cut up, like you’ve taken a jigsaw to it. As you try to figure out how to best present the big picture to your reader, all the pieces get out of order… and some even get lost or thrown out entirely. The beautiful vision of your put-together story can sometimes get lost in the minutiae. Sometimes the image itself changes. That piece you thought belonged at the beginning might be better placed near the middle. Those two characters who were supposed to fall in love are now bitter enemies.

Then you cut the pieces again. And again and again until you’ve created something that the reader can put together easily and have fun while doing it. In the end, they may not see the same big picture that you see, but you can only hope that what they do see is satisfying to them.

4 thoughts on “Creating the Puzzle

  1. “‘Sometimes the image itself changes.”

    This is the really fun part. You take your nice image of a sunset, chop it up, put the pieces back together again, and it’s a tiger. And then you turn it upside down and it’s a golden desert.

    Well, the metaphor falls apart, as they always do, but yes, the very true part is that the reader needs to do the work. This is one reason why I’m always drawn to audio drama — I like doing the work of imagining the visual part.

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