Strategy and Simplify

And many an idea comes from fiction.

In the short story, Consones Diary, (*see below) an 1850s consummate swordsman named Otavio Consone is teaching swordplay to Duncan MacLeod. His impatient student already knows sword work, but wants to learn more. From a master. At this point, MacLeod is rash, headstrong and Consone considers him still somewhat barbaric. But Consone sees promise in the man, and takes him as a student.

Later, after several weeks of training, Consone shares two secrets with the Highlander: Strategy and Simplify

From the diary:

He is ready for the first secret. Strategy. A duelist asks himself four simple questions. What is my opponent doing? How is he doing it? What can I do about it? And most importantly: can I do it?

Secret number two. Simplify. Action is an exercise in minimalism. Speed does not come from greater effort, but from doing less and doing it better. A smaller simpler move is more effective and speed is the natural result.

The Writers Interpretation

This can more than apply to writing as well. Just as a duelist may ask himself these questions, we writers can ask the same type of questions.

  • What is my competition doing?
  • How is he doing it?
  • What can I do about it?
  • Can I do it?


If your competition is creating a decent brochure (his what) but is concentrating on the features (his how), why not concentrate on writing a brochure that stresses the benefits, perceived or real (your what)? Only you can decide whether you can do this or not


Youve decided that yes, you can do it. Whats more, you will do it. You will write the brochure with benefits. And, youve also found a way to use white space so that your brochure look less cluttered, even as your lean text states everything necessary. Its deceptively simple, but its a powerful piece.

Todays Takeaway

Dont put away fiction completely. Leave a little room in each months time to read something non-cerebral. Put away the reference books, the business books and the how-to manuals for just a few minutes here and there of unrestricted fiction.

I admit, I dont read a lot of fiction any more, no more than one, maybe two books in a month. My tastes now embrace non-fiction at the rate of two or three in a week. But, what fiction I do read (mystery, suspense, and fantasy, mostly), I find ideas that answer questions beyond the suspension of disbelief, ideas to think about, and ideas that spark other ideas. Best of all, I find ideas I can use in writing.

Dont put away fiction forever.

Where have you found ideas in odd places? Which fiction books are your favorites and why?

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