1. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

    Jun 7, 2015
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    Writing is to Programming as...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sack-a-Doo!, Jun 30, 2016.

    While I was out for my morning walk, it struck me that writing a story is like coding software. I used to be a programmer, so I see it in almost every aspect of life, but this time it was different; it was an epiphany.

    Because when we write stories, we're programming the reader's brain to conjure up images and trigger emotions.

    And this made me think about all the levels of programming involved when writing prose, everything from local variables (individual word choices) and expressions (sentences) all the way up to global variables (main character and story goal). Perhaps this is why I see story structure as being so important.

    The beats (to use Blake Snyder's word) in the plot are like the steps in the main loop of a program: gather data, decide what to do with it, try something and if that doesn't work, try something else. And when the solution is finally found, regather the data and bang on it until it either breaks (sad ending) or works (happy ending).

    Each scene is like a function. The reader comes in with certain expectations (entry conditions), watches while the MC and story goal (global variables) get mangled by the function (processing) and spit out the other end (end conditions). Sometimes the end conditions are not pretty.

    Each sequel (see Swain's book if you don't know what this is) is like error handling or error recovery code. Things went wrong in the scene (the data got mangled) so things need to be put right(ish) again before we can move on. Sometimes it can be like kicking the dents out of a fender after an accident, if I can bring in a whole other metaphor for a moment just for the imagery. The MC (global variable) has something new to try (another function) and so reader expectation is set up for the next scene.

    And the end product of a story will be satisfaction for the reader just as when a programme is finished and the user's data is all tied up in a bow... crashes not withstanding.

    And the epiphany? Structure makes storytelling easier just as it makes computer programming easier. It calls upon thousands of years of observation and practice by some pretty smart people from Aristotle and Shakespeare to the likes of Dwight V. Swain, Sid Field, Blake Snyder, Lajos Egri and Vicki King.

    Why wing it? It's like reinventing the wheel.
  2. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

    Apr 20, 2016
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    I use an Agile methodology to write. I've found that my ability to whiteboard and design very complex things helps me design a plot to a story.
  3. nastyjman

    nastyjman Senior Member

    Sep 27, 2010
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    I wing my story. I start out with a general idea of what the story is and just fly by the seat of my pants. But after I finish my first draft (or zero draft if it's a mess), I reverse engineer it and make an outline for the next draft.

    For me, I perceive stories as dreams made coherent. This is the basis as to why I pants my stories, but outline them later. It's like being an archeologist finding the gold within the unconscious and subconscious story I just wrote.
  4. SethLoki

    SethLoki Retired Autodidact Contributor

    Jan 1, 2011
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    Manchester UK
    I'm nearly in the position of 'I used to be a programmer' and I'm newly on board with you there @Sack-a-Doo! —with your perspective. Mine's been a little different to the one your revelation's just declared. I've seen my coding life as a bit 'locked in' what with pressure to squeeze algorithms into lesser lines and be absolutely spot-on with syntax. Maybe that's why I lean to the florid when unleashed from work. Let my thinking/writing be looser, unravel a bit.....
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2016
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.
  5. Raven484

    Raven484 Contributor Contributor

    Jan 6, 2016
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    I think it's more programming is like writing a novel. Writing has been around a lot longer than computer programs. If you think of it, when you make a program you are using a different language to create an instruction manual for what you want your program to do. It's kind of a which came first, the chicken or the egg. Except in this situation I am going with writing before programming.
    Great analogy though. I will have to smoke some weed on it.
    Sack-a-Doo! likes this.

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