Story Puzzle

Mutual Support by George W. Hart
Hart’s sculpture is based on what he calls a puzzle design. Each piece is made of an identical windmill shape. See it here. He notes, with no apparent irony, that assembling this puzzle-sculpture was “harder than it looks.” Holy crap, I would say that it’s exactly as hard as it looks!

“The story comes together as we discover or invent all of the pieces that we need.”  

So says David Farland in his Daily Kick in the Pants post where he talks about story as puzzle. He explains that story ideas are better thought of a pieces of a puzzle, and that assembling a story has less to do with letting your imagination run amok and more to do with channeling it.

Then I read Stephen Pressfield’s excellent post about why one of my favorite movies is such an enduring classic. He talks about making sure the stakes in your story align with the overall theme.

“Robert Towne’s Chinatown is about secrecy. It’s about things seeming to be one thing on the surface—and turning out to be completely different underneath. Chinatown is about duplicity and deception. Therefore the stakes and jeopardy must be about secrets. Their drama must be played out on a landscape of deception.”

I have to admit that I’m not a big puzzle person. When I think of them, I usually think of “doing” or even “working” them. At least until a few years ago. When my oldest daughter was just beginning to get chatty in that learning-to-talk way, she would tell me that she wanted to “play” her puzzles. And we would sit together and assemble, for the nth time, one of her puzzles, the universe or the whimsical painting of Greek gods and monsters or the miniature landscape filled with anthropomorphized vegetables.

The problem solving and assembly wasn’t work to her, but play. Of course the joy of playing puzzles is seeing the big picture slowly come together as you find each individual component and lock it into place. When you can fit things together to reveal a bigger picture, that’s what people talk about when they say a work of art is more than the sum of it’s parts.

2 thoughts on “Story Puzzle”

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