The Domino Theory of Writing

There are two types of writers, those who outline and those who don’t. The first group creates a rough skeletal form of what they’re going to write. Sorry if I can’t be more descriptive about it then that, but I don’t do it and I really have no idea how it’s done.

That’s because I’m in the latter group, the “by the seat of the pants” writers, or “panters.”

That first group, when they get an idea, I guess it comes fully formed, like a shell or skeleton of the story. They know the beginning, middle, and end. They know the characters, the major conflict, and so on. They draw a schematic, if you will, of the novel that lets them keep on track as they write it. Again, I’m guessing. Maybe a real outliner will leave a comment on what the process entails.

For me, my ideas don’t come as a big overview of the novel, I get a snippet, a vague whisper of an idea. A conversation will pop into my head. Just a few lines of dialog. I’ll write those down. But I don’t stop. The very act of writing those line, creates some more dialog. Or it creates a mini-bio of one of the characters. This leads to fleshing out the scene. As that scene ends, another appears behind it and I begin to write that. Scenes lead and follow in succession.

When I started, I only had the dialog. Or maybe an image of something, like a man entering a room or something. Each scene leads to another scene and I keep writing. Early on, I’ll know if its going to be a flash piece, a short story, or something much longer.

Some people talk of a muse, a magical entity that inspires them to write. In a way, that is exactly how I write. Granted the muse is my own imagination, but still, it’s almost a magical enterprise.

An idea will form and I sit down to put that on paper and as I write that scene, the following scene presents itself, then the next, and the next and the next.

Writing to me, is very much like dominoes. Nothing happens until you push that first one over. But once you do, a chain reaction starts. A domino falls, strikes the next, causing it to fall into the one after that. And pretty soon you have this fascinating continuous line of falling dominoes going up ramps, around curves, across other lines of dominoes, until you finally reach the end.

The same happens when writing. Scene follows scene in a continuous line of rising tension, growing characters, increasing plots, until it reaches a climax and you type “the end.”

Or, in my case:

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2 thoughts on “The Domino Theory of Writing

  1. The Domino Theory, huh? I like it. When I read your blog entry I began to rethink my approach to writing. I think I’m, as you put it, a ‘panter’ but I’ve been trying to follow the rules of structure prescribed by a lot of the creative writing technique books. So far it hasn’t done anything for me but slowed my output to a trickle as I endless work and rework the outline. Basically I see a beginning and ending, and the middle is all mud. But maybe if I try to line up my dominos both ways from beginning and ending, scene by scene I can get there. Thanks 🙂

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