I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mapping Our Journey

After this year's ACFW conference, I traveled southeast along the beautiful Ohio River Valley to see a close friend before continuing on to others in Morgantown, WV.

After missing one MapQuest turn, I found myself on an alternate paved highway that locals in gas stations and restaurants assured me headed the right direction. I needed to reach Clarksburg. However, no highway sign indicated Clarksburg, let alone my final destination of Morgantown. Instead, I wound around hills and up and down valleys past countless bewildering local names incorporating Knob, Gap, Lick, Mountain, Hollow and Run--but with no larger destination name to assure me I was on target.

I love long road trips, but I don't recall a more frustrating drive. While the clock ticked, I feared I might be hurtling the wrong direction. When I topped one last hill and spotted Clarksburg, I almost kissed the city limits sign.

That experience made me more determined to provide readers clear signposts in my writing--and a sense of the story progressing toward satisfying conclusions. After gripping opening hooks, as writers, we must deliver well-connected beginnings, middles and ends, along with clear progress indicators along the way. Otherwise, disconnected side roads may frustrate and lose readers until they turn back or quit their journey entirely.

In his famous 1765 Preface to Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson wrote: :A quibble to Shakespeare, what luminous vapours are to the traveller; he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf him in the mire . . . . A quibble is the golden apple for which he will always turn aside . . . or stoop from his elevation. A quibble, poor and barren as it is, gave him such delight, that he was content to purchase it, by the sacrifice of reason . . . . A quibble was to him the fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it."

After my drive through West Virginia, I am newly committed to resist quibbles. Instead, I will write clean, forward-moving narrative, delivering what I promise, while providing satisfying story signposts along the way.

Delores Topliff


  1. Dee, this is such a brilliant comparison! Your post not only painted a picture of being lost, it invoked the feelings of being lost. Thank you for the challenge to make sure my writing is clear. I will be more aware of plot lines that wind around in circles, leaving readers to wonder if they will ever find their way out! I love your insight!

  2. You've got a way with analogies, Dee! And I love your adventurous spirit!

  3. Delores, We drove back a similar way from my mother's funeral last summer. We were deliberately trying to wind around though and enjoyed it quite a bit, especially our part in Kentucky but it was a little scary with the mountain roads. Interesting quote, too!

  4. Dee, don't you just hate it when you don't know whether to keep going or turn around. I feel that way in my book sometimes, too. lol. Thanks for the reminder to stay on track.

  5. Very good post Dee. I love the way you see things! Perfect timing too with NaNoWriMo 3 days away!

  6. Sorry to be commenting late, Dee. Wonderful post and like Beth said, you have such a way with analogies. I'm working on the plot for my next book using Susie's brilliant Book Buddy. And it feels good. Even though I know sometimes the path bends in a way I didn't expect when writing, having that roadmap as a guide in the beginning is soooo helpful!