Elegant Solutions



Some people define an “elegant” solution as a solution you wish you’d thought of yourself. A solution tinged with a touch of awe and envy for the cleverness of whoever thought of it.

I recently received an elegant solution for the short story I’m currently writing. For now, I’m tired of world-building, so I decided to write a story about one of my favorite characters. As usual, I chose to write the story from her point of view. A comfortable choice, like greeting an old friend.

I shared the start of the story with my writing group and was encouraged by the response, and afterward chatted with one of the other writers about my plans for the rest of the story. She offered me an absolutely brilliant suggestion (thanks, Keiko!).

Her suggestion: “Write the story from the point of view of one of the other characters.”

My first reaction: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

My second reaction: “Wow, that’ll work, and it’ll be much more challenging that what I’d planned.”

Thus, an elegant solution.

And it’s a solution I’m not sure I would have thought of. “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” and all that. Because I chose to tell a story about my familiar character, I naturally chose her viewpoint. But in reality, the story focuses on the other character, and therefore it makes much more sense to explore the point of view of the character with the most to lose.

Sometimes we become blinded by the familiar. We don’t always see other choices, and we need other people’s viewpoints to give us a “kick in the complacency.” As a writer, I cannot create in a vacuum. I often use other members of my writing group and my best friend as sounding boards for my ideas. Usually they see things I’ve missed, or ask me questions that force me to consider issues I hadn’t even imagined. Ultimately, the stories I write are mine. I choose what words to set upon the page, yet I know for a fact that my stories have been improved by incorporating other people’s feedback.

I’m about halfway through writing the “elegant solution” version of this story, and I believe it’s much more exciting this way than it would have been had I continued my original approach. So here’s to elegant solutions, and I look forward to receiving (and hopefully offering) more elegant solutions in future.