Monday, December 5, 2011

Life is Like Writing ... In the Fast Lane

by R.C. Lewis

I recently did a post on my blog about observations on writing related to all my time on the road. As soon as I posted it, a couple more writing parallels struck me during my daily commute.

It's all about getting on the freeway.

First, we have the on-ramp. When I was in driver's ed, they taught me that the reason we have on-ramps instead of making right turns onto the freeway is so we have a chance to get up to speed. Some drivers must have missed that day in class. You don't want to be going 20 mph slower (or faster) than everyone else when you get there.

Same thing in our stories. Are we pushing the action forward at the right rate? Increasing the tension and intrigue steadily? Or are we dragging things out? Rushing them too much? We need to hit the right pace at the right time.

Once we get to the end of the ramp, we have to merge. Other cars are already on the freeway, and we need to tuck ourselves in ahead of some and behind others. When I was a new driver, I realized that merging is an art form. You have to prepare for it way ahead of time, watching traffic, predicting where you'll fit in, adjusting your speed.

The same art applies to merging threads in our narratives, particularly if there are two parallel storylines that eventually converge. We can't just jam them together—we have to see the merge as we're approaching. Chapters in advance, we have to see how they're going to mesh and nudge them toward each other.

I know these are silly "life is like writing" metaphors, but I find when they occur to me, they make me think of a new angle to check in my manuscripts. Maybe it's my teaching background—when trying to help a student grasp a new concept, I relate it to something much more familiar to them.

Do you have any metaphors you like to use in analyzing your writing (silly or otherwise)? How do they help you get your story on-track?


Rosalind Adam said...

I've never heard the term 'on ramp'. We call it 'slip road'. Either way it's the bit that I hate about motorway driving. I'm always convinced that I'll never merge in properly... but I always do, thankfully!

I love the way you've compared this to writing. Pace is as important as plot. I'm not sure that I have a metaphor to use for writing analysis but one phrase I've said to people over and over again is 'You'll never get your work accepted if you don't send it out!' (Nothing to do with metaphors but it just reminded of it.)

Christopher Hudson said...

Hmmmm ... is that a simile or a metaphor?

Jemi Fraser said...

Pace is something I'm still working on! There are definite days when one part of the story is 20 kph faster than the other! Gotta work on that merging! :)

Dean C. Rich said...

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Elizabeth said...

Love your blog name.