Taking the chess analogy further

If you haven’t read the previous post on this topic, you can find it here.

Last time, I wrote about how the game of chess is analogous to the writing process.

Think of the chess board, with its alternating coloured squares, as a landscape in which your story is set.  Or if you like, think of it as the checked pattern indicating transparency in a painting program, with the edges constraining how far your story can go.

At any time when writing a story, you can of course increase the size of your playing field.  However, when you do that you need more scenery to fill it – new worlds, new cities, new places to explore.

Similarly, before you can play chess, you must place the pieces on the board.  In writing though, all pieces can be considered to start the same.  You only need to use or differentiate a few of them to begin with.

What I mean by differentiating, is developing their particular traits and idiosyncracies.  You don’t need to know exactly how they work in any given situation, but it’s good to know how they tend to move.

In writing too, the pieces need not start in the same position every time.  You may find it interesting to examine just a few pieces in a certain position with the rest put to one side.

The important thing to take from this is that with each story you are learning the same game of chess (the writing process) but with pieces that may bear no resemblance to kings or queens or knights or any of the hand-crafted pieces you used in your last game.  Feel positive when you grasp a concept better the second or third time around.

What I like about chess is that the rules are consistent throughout.  You can’t move a piece if it would put your king in check, for example, or you can’t take two moves per turn (with the possible exception of castling).

In writing, you set the rules.  For example, if characters observe a particular code of honour during combat, that’s a rule.  If a character breaks that rule for a reason, you’re still being consistent.

Consistency is important.  The reader should develop expectations when reading your story, not have them dashed aside because you didn’t check for it.

In chess, you can check that the pieces have made legal moves, and in the right order.  In writing, you need to check against your own rulebook.

Re-read your work and remind yourself what your rules are, take notes and develop a sort of lore book as you go along to refer to when you need a ruling.  An outline helps to avoid swerving off track, but sometimes (especially when you are just startinga story) you want to explore possibilities off the set track.

Before you can go back over the moves you have made and critically anaylse them, you must first make them.  And in order to make moves, you must first have pieces and a board to move them on.

So you can see how one thing depends on another which in turn depends on another.  I mean, you could have a cowgirl from Coruscant duking it out with a mutant superheroine from Ohio on Gorash VII, but it might not make much sense to your readers.

As always, I hope this analogy has amused you and given you some insight into your own process. 🙂