Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fall in Love With the Problem

Today I want to explore the idea that there is much to learn about the craft of writing through people who are not writers. This quote popped up on my twitter feed from a woman I know through Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA). It is attributed to Marc Randolph, cofounder of Netflix.

Here is the picture I saw on Twitter. Thank you @SusanAbbott for sharing.

“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution –because if you fall in love with the solution, you’ll chase it trying to find a problem to fit it. And if you fall in love with the problem you’ll learn everything you can to know why that problem exists, and what efforts were made in the past to solve it, and who has that problem, and under what conditions. Then you’ll come up with hundreds of ways to possibly solve it.”

I don’t have the original source or context for that quote, but it was attributed to Bay Street Bull, a publication that describes itself as “A luxury lifestyle magazine focusing on the intersection of business, technology and culture for the individual that wants to live bigger and better.” (Interesting stuff, by the way if you visit their website at

I suspect Randolph was addressing the business community. But he could just as easily been talking to fiction writers. The strength of the novel is in the problem. 

Think about it…
·      The “hook” is the problem our protagonist must face.
·      The problem is the core of the tension in the book. 
·      Why that problem exists is the backstory of the antagonist that unfolds throughout the manuscript.
·      Who has that problem and under what circumstances is the story itself. It is the how and where our unsuspecting protagonist and up-to-no-good antagonist cross paths.
·      The fact there are hundreds of possible solutions make the book a page-turner. Especially the possible solutions that fail. We get the readers hopes up only to fail miserably at fixing everything and having to start all over.

Randolph’s advice via that tweet was perfect timing for me. I am currently crafting a suspense novel. I want the solution. I want a satisfying end to the book. But I can’t rush getting there. I need to “fall in love with the problem.” The problem is what will hold my interest as I push my characters into situations I create and get them through as changed people. And I need to come up as many possible solutions to their dilemma as I can. As many “what ifs” I can create for my protagonist to find along the way.

If the problem holds my interest as I write, it will hold the interest of my readers.

If you’ve been following my blog you may have picked up on a theme of sorts these past few weeks. Connections. As writers, we need to connect with people outside the writing community as well those within the writing community. We already know stories are found in headlines, but how to be stronger writers may be found in talking with business leaders, researchers, and others. Or in this case…on Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your comments here. I look forward to hearing from you.