the mutt

Writing like Indiana Jones

Posted in Writing by grx20 on September 5, 2008

Dig writing? Get on your knees!
In his cult-classic, On Writing, Stephen King compares the creative process with archaeology. Not only does it sound interesting, I think it is also brilliantly true. It’s one of those things, that make you nod your head and say, ‘yeah, that’s true, that’s how it works for me.’

Pen in my hand, sand in my eyes.
King holds that stories and ideas are completely formed relics, buried and waiting to be discovered by the writer. The job of the writer then, is to carefully unearth as much of the story/idea as possible, while doing as little damage as possible.

The tools for the project are the elements of language and the more adept we are at handling gerunds, infinitives and adverbial clauses, the easier the task becomes.

This notion flies in the face of carefully detailed plot maps and character outlines. Instead of ‘thinking up’ plots, King asks us to shift our perspective. The story is already there, complete and perfect. Your job is merely to brush away the dust, clear the sand and bring it to light, without breaking too many bones.

So what exactly am I looking for?
It’s something that works for me. It is also liberating, in a way to know that the story is already there – the troublesome middle section has been worked out and that elusive ending has already been found. It lifts the burden off me. I don’t have to invent an ending, instead I have to ask myself if a particular development seems natural to the parent story – is it a bone, a part of the relic, or am I merely dusting up a stone?

No one told me my pants would get dirty.
This perhaps, takes the glamour off writing. Wasn’t it supposed to be a mystical and ethereal experience? I, however, don’t mind it at all. As any serious writer will agree, writing is bloody hard work. Sitting at the desk, toiling, fighting the urge to ‘do it later’ and dealing with the frightening prospect of getting it all wrong. It’s hard work – as much as sweating it out under an unforgiving summer sun.

Not that plotting, or making an outline is wrong. There are many who have found great success with this method. And will therefore swear by it. To be fair, I’ve tried making these lists and outlines and have found it hard hard work. Harder than archaeology.

I guess, they are the ones who feel, if they are going to start digging up stuff, they’d rather do it with all the details – knowing what the temperature and the humidity is.


4 Responses

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  1. Darth Valinorean said, on September 6, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    I read On Writing very recently on a recommendation from a reader/writer who’s opinion I value greatly. And you are absolutely right. For any reader or writer or any combination of both, this is compulsory reading. It is a fascinating read and it makes your blog that much more credible, interesting and worth reading (or getting RSS / email) that you employ Mr. King’s On Writing so superbly to craft a nifty piece yourself.

  2. Jo-Naathan said, on September 6, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Interesting blog !! I agree with your comments on On Writing. The blog is very witty and interesting. Keep up the good work.

  3. Vinod said, on September 10, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Nifty piece of writing, I believe, was the comment. Very true. You’re wasted in advertising my young paduwan.

    May the force be with you.

  4. the mutt said, on September 11, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Thanks guys …

    Wasted in advertising, Vinod? Tired of ad copy, it’s what drove me here!

    Thanks for that encouragement! Does a lot of good for me – especially in these early days of the blog.

    Thanks Jo-Naathan for stopping by. Hope to see you more often.

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