Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Writing and The Art of War
Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable;
when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we
are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away;
when far away, we must make him believe we are near.
How does this translate to writing the perfect Mystery? The perfect Fantasy? The perfect Romance? When we're writing we should lay traps and intrigues for the reader to stumble into. We should set up labyrinths where the readers is lulled into a false sense of security in thinking they can predict the outcome of the story. Or knows three chapters before the end of the novel who the killer is. Or who actually is in love with Hortense.
When we write we should present the obvious; yet fade away when it appears the denouement has arrived. We should insert seemingly innocuous little details that, at first, appear to be of little significance only to later on realize they play a vital role in solving the conundrum.
Deception. What makes for a great book is deception. What delights a reader the most is deception and surprise.
If you have not read The Art of War I strongly urge you to do so. Read it and convert its tenants into rules and guidelines you can use as writing techniques. Don't become so religious about it that you MUST use every one. The old general would chastise you for being so literal. Flexibility, speed, a clear vision--those attributes he would stress the most. Rigid adherence to rules he would not.
(Eunice! Not fair, dammit! I'm encased in a knight's armor--and you're in a fraking Army tank! One of us has a decidedly difference of opinion on what is the definition of a fair fight!)