Thursday, April 21, 2011

Roller Coasters and Writing: Experiencing the Click

If you've ever ridden a wooden roller coaster, maybe you remember how it goes--first the car leaves the station with a hiss of releasing brakes and a slight jerk. Usually the track twists a little, sometimes there's a slight dip to get the cars moving a little faster, and then there's the incline. You begin to go up the first hill based on speed gained through gravity alone, and then ... there's a jerk and a click as the safety rachet engages, and then a clack clack clack clack clack as the cars are dragged to the top.

And then you're flying.

Sometimes writing a book feels a bit like a roller coaster to me. And I don't mean that in the emotional way--although it definitely has those aspects too--but what I wanted to focus on is that click.

I can't write the book until I experience it, actually.

When I first think up a story and all the elements--characters, setting, conflict, resolution--everything is jumbled up. I can't see how it all flows together. I fumble with the characters, sifting through their personalities, weaknesses, strengths, trying to understand what makes them tick and what motivates them. I ruminate on the world and what challenges the setting presents. Sometimes I get impatient and try to start writing, only to delete chapters of material later. See, I'm waiting for the click.

Once it happens, the story grabs hold of me and drags me forward. Everything (voice, emotional resonance, theme) rushes together in a moment of clarity, and I can really begin, because now it all makes sense. It's like being pulled up that first hill. Then everything starts moving really, really fast.

I'm not sure how this could be taught or learned, or even adequately described. It's very instinctive to me, and based completely on intuition.

Do you ever experience "the click?"


  1. That's an interesting analogy. I think I tend to take a slightly different approach. I feel like there is a click, but it's more of trying to get a car engine to turn over when it is being stubborn.

    I like your imagery though.

  2. Taking about experiencing a "click" also makes me think of Brick's alcoholism Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ... but I don't mean that kind. :-P

  3. this is a beautiful post... sometimes my rollercoaster gets stuck... sometimes while i'm stuck upside down!!!

  4. @ Vic

    Haha! Mine too! Great addition to the analogy :-)


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