Updated: Dec 4, 2018
"When we read, we start at the beginning and read until we reach the end. When we write, we start in the middle and fight our way out." This is a quote credited to Vickie Karp.
I think this observation is insightful if not brilliant. If the "middle" is the moment of clarity in our protagonist's character arc, the description works well. After building my story world over the past month for A Light From Friday Harbor, I wrote the final chapter before completing the middle. I knew where I wanted my protagonist to land with all plot and character issues resolved. It's in the resolving that I've entered the war zone.
It's here in the middle where the characters must dig deep into their world views and find the answers to the plot challenges. It's also where the writer must face the same issues and guide those characters through to a logical solution. It's also in these critical chapters where the writer has the opportunity to give away the thoughts and wisdom she may have learned in her own life story. The following quote from a very wise man, Henri Nouwen, is fast becoming my favorite inspiration for the writing life.
"Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to "give away" on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches." (Henri Nouwen, Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader)
If we are honest with ourselves, most writers hope that their thoughts will be shared, that the words will be like a helping hand to someone struggling with a similar life issue. For some of us, committing our perceptions of how the world works and how we can be productive in it is a strong motivation for writing. I want my writing to do more than entertain.
Over the next weeks, my hope is to present more of these similes to explain the process of bringing a book to life.
Writing is like. . .? Reading is like. . .? What is your simile?