Saturday, October 17, 2015

Writing Synergy

Synergy - The interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions, etc.

On a recent road trip, we came across this field. At first glance, it's a typical cotton field. The cotton plants take in sunshine and turn it into cotton which we make into crisp sheets and comfortable blue jeans. Plants are the original solar collectors. But for the cotton to thrive, it needs water, and rain isn't always dependable in West Texas. Wind, however, is almost constant, and the windmills on this property produce electricity. Electricity powers the pumps that produce water from an underground aquifer for the irrigation system that keeps this cotton growing.

At the base of the windmill, you can see a pump-jack, pumping oil from deeper underground. The oil will be made into fuel, which powers the tractors and farm machinery necessary to plant, cultivate, and harvest the cotton. Everything works together to produce the crop. 

The best stories are a little like this field. The main crop is the plot, driving the story along. But like dry-land farming, without the irrigation of well-developed characters the plot would wither and die. Strong characters are as crucial to a story as water is to a crop.

Far overhead, the breezes of the story drive the theme, the overarching feel of the story. Whether it's about the power of love or the misery of greed, the theme is the "lesson" we take from the story. Did you know windmills automatically shut down when the wind blows too hard? Theme is like that. It works best when it's a subtle breeze, not a hurricane.

And underneath it all, the author's voice produces the energy to plant the crop and nurture it. Humor, plot twists, juxtaposition: all the things that make a story special come from the reservoir of the author's personality and life experience. 

All together, these forces add up to more than the sum of their parts. That's what produces a good crop, and what produces a good story. 


  1. This is such a beautiful analogy of writing. I actually had no idea how dry-land farming works where there is no water visible. Thank you for these 2 beautiful lessons!

  2. So glad you stopped by. I grew up on a cotton farm, but we didn't have oil wells or wind generators, so this field caught my attention.