Writing Is Like LEGO and It’s Awesome
Somewhere out there, in the aether of time and space, is a scientific report waiting to be written about the links between writers and LEGO. Just about every writer I know loves LEGO, many rewarding themselves for new book deals with those huge expensive sets (I’m looking enviously at you, Adam Christopher, and your Star Wars Star Destroyer). But if you take the time to consider it, you’ll realise that building LEGO and writing share much more in common than you would at first realise.
Perhaps it’s no wonder there are links. Writers are creative people and building LEGO is a creative pastime. Using LEGO is both creative and playful, just like writing. And let’s face it, if it gets used in management training, it’s transgressed from just being a toy into something far more…adult.
I’m sure that there are those who would look at what writers do and think it just playing or “making things up”. The only difference is that when we get paid for it we can claim we are “being professional” and use fancy terms like “muse”, “mind palace” and “creative flow” and people take us seriously (Ha! The fools!). We can get away with explaining away a lot under the guise of “writing” but when you really boil down to it, all writers are doing is playing.
There Are Lots Of Different Themes
Just as writing has a lot of genres, so LEGO has a lot of themes. In fact you can almost match up LEGO themes to writing genres. The Castle sets are most definitely fantasy. I mean, you can’t have a good bit of traditional fantasy without there being a castle mentioned somewhere. And if there’s not enough orcs for your liking you can always add the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit sets into the mix to expand your mini-figure collection to include goblins, dwarves and elves. They’re actually based (via the films) on the books Tolkien wrote. You can’t get much more hardcore fantasy than that.
The space theme has everything for the science fiction writer from aliens to afterburners. You can even expand it to include the Star Wars sets if you need a few extra spacecraft with LEGO versions of the X-Wing and Millennium Falcon available. And if you’re hardcore about your science realism you can always venture into the realm of the Technics sets. I’m sure there’s even a LEGO model of the space shuttle.
Urban fantasy writers can lay claim to both the Marvel and DC Superhero sets, whilst the horror writer is also served by the monster sets adding vampires, mummies and werewolves into the mix. With so many licensed properties out there, it’s a fan fiction paradise. Mixing Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings sets together is a bit like shipping!
And for those literary writers there are always the city sets, reflecting everyday life without the wild feats of imagination that most of genre brings. Just as long as those literary writers like construction workers!
You Can Mix and Match Them
Today’s writers like to borrow a little from all genres. We see books that mix traditional fantasy with a splash of science fiction or urban fantasy with a bit of romance. Publishing today isn’t as siloed as it once was and any attempts to make fiction fit into nice neat categorisations is usually foiled a couple of months down the line when some writer brings out a book with elements of two genres you’d previously never have thought of going together.
Likewise, the benefit of a modular brick system is that you can mix and match. Want to give Gandalf a jetski? Totally possible with LEGO. Want to build Batman a spaceship or create a Chewbaccamobile? Like writing the only limitation is your imagination.
Writing Is Made Of Lots Of Different Blocks
When you break those awesome LEGO models down, they are really just a collection of bricks. Unassembled in the box they don’t look like much. But start following the plans (or ignoring them totally and doing things your own way) you connect them together to make something original and, yes, awesome.
Writing is the same. Things like plot, character and conflict are all bricks in the writer’s LEGO set that are assembled in new and interesting ways to create novels and stories. And as you write more, it’s a bit like gaining new sets. You learn new techniques which are like gaining new types of bricks that you can add to your set and use in the future.
Sometimes You Need Special Pieces
Just like the best LEGO sets, some of the best writing out there uses special pieces, techniques or styles we don’t regularly see. It’s those pieces that can set a good book apart, and that other writers see and make use of in their own writing in ways we previously couldn’t have imagined. The more you write, the more special pieces you’ll accumulate.
Of course, you don’t need to use them all in every model you construct. They can sit there in your collection waiting for that moment when you are constructing a story and think, “I have the perfect piece for that.”
If it’s not working you can take it apart and rebuild it.
If you’ve ever built any LEGO you’ll know that even carefully following the plans you often make mistakes. Writing is like that as well. You can outline and plan your work as carefully as you like but sometimes it just doesn’t come together on the page.
When that happens, the only way to deal with it is to fix it in editing, either by making changes to the existing section or rewriting it. The bricks of our stories – the characters, plot, points of view – largely stay the same, we just assemble them in different ways, trying to build a better story that looks more like the instructions we have built in our head.
And of course, at the risk of a cheap pun, writing is awesome! The freedom to create, to build the stories we want to write. If we’re just writing as a hobby, or a first draft, who cares if there are wrong coloured bricks in there, or the wheels we’ve added to our castle keep falling off and need re-engineering. We can fix that when we add the dragon wings to the battlements.
We’re writers and we’re master builders. We build LEGO in our minds.