Wednesday, 26 February 2014

On knottiness

I have spent the last couple of hours working on my novel. It's why I'm not putting blog posts up so regularly right now. There is only so much time each day that I can dedicate to writing, and at this point, long-form is the chosen child.

Novel-writing is different to blogging.  I write most blog posts in a single sitting, then leave the words to ferment. A couple of days later,  I tweak words, rearrange phrases and correct typos. Occasionally, it is necessary to heave the post, in its entirety, into the trash, as it is a pile of steaming, stinking manure. Mostly, however, I can retrieve crumbs of substance, work on it a bit and create something relatively presentable.

Novels, however, are a different breed. After this morning's effort, the best analogy I can find is a Gordian Knot. A twisted, winding-back-on-itself mess of strings.

Novels involve a lot of retrospective writing.  Words are added or deleted, details enlarged orsimplified. The process goes back and forth, and round and round. All in the name of a cohesive whole.

A novel should be a Gordian Knot. There should be depth, and dark, unseen interiors. Characters need to be as complex as people are in real life.  Imaginary worlds need to be solid, non-slip and defy unravelling. A plot full of twisting and turning is imperative, or the story becomes... *yawns*.

The first Gordian Knot is said to have been tied by an early king of Phyrgia (part of Macedonia) who unexpectedly became king merely by driving his ox cart through the town gates. He celebrated his good fortune by erecting a shrine. The centrepiece of the shrine was his ox cart, tied to a pole with a complex knot that seemed to have no beginning or end. Hundreds of tightly interwoven thongs of cornel-bark made the knot very impressive. There it remained as an important symbol for the Phrygians.

Year after year, the bark hardened, and stories grew up about the shrine. People speculated as to its purpose. Most regarded it as a curious puzzle. Eventually, an oracle foretold that whoever untied the Gordian Knot would lord over the whole of Asia. The lore grew and grew.

Over the years, the puzzle relic became quite a tourist attraction. Residents considered it the duty of every wanderer to visit their shrine and attempt to solve their puzzle. They regarded it as extremely unlucky for visitors to leave their city without trying to untie the knot.

No one knows how many visitors attempted the puzzle of the Gordian Knot, but we do know who solved it. We call him Alexander The Great. Some say he cut the knot in half, others maintain that he took out the pole yoke, which exposed the ends of the knot, and enabled him to unravel it. The legend, however, became true; he did go on to conquer the world and rule all of Asia.

Today, to say that someone cut the Gordian Knot, means the person made a quick, decisive move or took drastic action.

And now that I've wasted a huge hunk of time, scouting the internet to find all that, I had better get back to twirling my own strings...

Yours in knottiness
Mrs Catch


  1. Love the analogy, and hope that your strings behave themselves.

  2. Great to read the writing is going well. Some days I think I would just cut that Gordian Knot.

    1. Decisive, but not so good for the plot. Lol.


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