Last week, I found myself at a stand still with my serial novel. I emailed a friend for help, and through her questions and my analyzing everything that had gone before, I got the answer I was looking for (which incidentally, was “who done it”). Obviously that will be a secret to the readers for awhile yet, but I needed to know in order to set up the rest of the story correctly. I couldn’t go forward without the answer.
Somewhere in the midst of our exchanges, I realized something rather disturbing. The kind of plot and character analysis I was doing reminded me of a math problem – one of those complex algebra problems that can take an entire page of notebook paper to solve. I basically figured out what the fixed variables were for each character, then plugged them into an equation depending on how those variables related to each other. Adding and subtracting potential variables based on the fixed variables is what got me to my ultimate solution – a logical solution that isn’t too obvious, but will (I hope) be a bit of a surprise, only becoming logical when we look at everything that came before. Sort of an “I can’t believe I missed that” kind of thing. Or that’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.
I hate math – I always have. I think it’s because math takes a lot of brainpower for me, and I’m lazy. My whole life people around me have talked about math (logic) being at odds with language studies (creative), and I believed that. I never for one minute believed that whole “you’ll need algebra when you’re an adult” mantra that the adults tout(ed?).
Color me wrong. Apparently, I’m wrong on both counts. Math can be applied to writing, and I am actually using a roundabout method of algebra when plotting stories. Really – who would have thought?
Have you ever thought about applying math to your writing process? How about some other discipline? How do you get over being stumped when it’s something in your manuscript that’s not working?