Alien intelligence tests
I am firmly convinced that if you gave one of those high school test questions with the drawing of a shape on it, and ask which of the four answer drawings best matched the back side of the original shape, writers would fall into two categories with their answers. The writers who got it right, who could envision the back of a nonexistent object, would turn out to be those who outline their books.
Then there would be those who looked at drawings A, B, C, and D in bewilderment, and said, if you give me scissors, tape, and paper, Iâ€™ll make the shape for you and we can see what it looks like from the other side.
That would be those of us who write without outlines. Who, try as we might, cannot envision a thing that is not in our hands. and yes, I know these questions are intended to test intelligence, but I don’t think it’s that simple.
Take The Language of Bees. I made an outline for this book, really I did. A true outliner might call it a proto-outline, but the sequence of events was there, beginning to end, with most of the middle clear in my mind if not on the page.
Okay, my victim dies on a Friday night, is found Saturday, and in the newspapers Saturday afternoon. Russell and Holmes figure out who she is Sunday morning, the police have the identity Sunday night.
So far, so good.
But, when do the newspapers find out who it is? Monday provides me with a good link to a witness, who reads of the death midday on Monday so her reaction can effect Russellâ€™s investigation. However, if everyone knows who the victim is that early, it hampers Russell (not so much Holmes) considerably over the coming days, and makes it difficult to interview other witnesses.
Well, letâ€™s see, this is 1924 and fiction, letâ€™s have the newspapers be slow off the mark and not happen across the information for a while. That opens things up for Russell when it comes to questioning the victimâ€™s circle, however, it would also be useful to be able to see their reactions to the victimâ€™s death.
And this question, when do the newspapers know, is just one minor snag along the way. I begin to feel as if Iâ€™m walking through a bramble patch in a long sweater, one step forward and then a long pause to clear the hindrance.
I wonder if thereâ€™s a class that teaches a person how to envision the back of a nonexistent shape?