My husband is teaching me chess … and it’s proving to be a slow process. Oh, I’ve got all the piece moves down. That wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I get that the bishop moves diagonally and the castle goes in a straight line. The knight goes two spaces and then one. And then queen goes wherever the hell she wants to go (which is pretty freaking awesome).
But it’s the long-term planning and strategy that get me. Panic consumes me as I make those first few moves, knowing that in my attempts to attack him, I’m creating vulnerabilities for myself. It’s knowing that his experience had taught him to see things that I haven’t learned to see yet. It’s about learning to see more than one step ahead to ten steps ahead … guessing at the ultimate endgame, the final attack as well as the small attacks that will come along the way.
That and I just hate to lose. I’m not an overly competitive person, except when it come to certain activities. Trivia? Yes. Baseball? No. Crossword? Yes. Volleyball? No. Scrabble? Yes. Picking up a trend here? I’m about as coordinated as a newborn fawn. Oh… but games that strain the brain, those are my special love and I hate to lose.
I’m wondering if learning chess will help my writing. Will it help my long-term plotting? Will it help me develop more twisted strategies that will shock and astound my readers? And will it help me get into the head of other characters, the villains who are trying to destroy my hero and my hero’s friends who have their own agendas?
I think sometimes one of the hardest parts of developing a strategy for writing a great story is climbing into so many different minds. Most of the stories I’ve written over the years have been told from a first person point of view. In those instances, my main focus is to climb into the head of my main character, but that should stop me from wandering around the heads of many of the other characters — particularly the main guy/girl.
But I don’t think my problem is necessarily getting into the head of the main character or even the villain. No, the hard part is getting in the mind of all the other important characters running around in a story. What about the other characters that your main character counts on, trusts, doesn’t trust but needs? Don’t they have needs, desires, plans, and hidden agendas? Add depth to your stories by letting them have their way every now and again … even if it messes with your carefully laid plans.