Writing Jig-Saw Puzzles

Everyone, at some time or other in their life, builds a jig-saw puzzle. Not in the sense of actually manufacturing a puzzle, however, but placing the pieces to form a whole picture.

Some puzzles are simple, and only require a short time to complete. In contrast, complex puzzles need considerable study time in order to divide the sections into individual images and search out their specific pieces.

Likewise, writing a short story is accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. By comparison, a novel takes considerably longer. Like the complex jig-saw puzzle, a novel is assembled in sections—i.e., chapters—each with its own set of “images” matched to fit.

Myself included, every author I’ve read, whether short story or novel, builds a writing puzzle. The puzzle sections are sentences or paragraphs which would not fit anywhere else in the story line.

The pieces must not only fit, they must supplement the image being presented. In this case, the image is the story theme.

Each sentence in a paragraph, the individual paragraphs in a chapter. Every piece colors and forms to blend with its neighbors, producing a nearly complete image in the readers’ minds.

Therefore, by story’s end, the reader successfully builds the jig-saw puzzle the author has written. If the author does his/her job, all the pieces take their proper place.

As a result, the reader “sees” what the author has intended. Imagination brings together disparate parts, ignores the gaps, and delivers a satisfying if not perfectly clear picture.

A jig-saw puzzle of the written word.

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