Wick Communications

Your story cubed

In Writing techniques on September 8, 2011 at 8:45 am

If you haven’t ever heard of “cubing” that likely means that you haven’t been through a grad-school writing program. It’s an attempt to render the unexplainable – the writing process – as a mathematical concept.

Still reading? Bear with me. And here’s hoping you might “cube” a story in the days to come.

You know that a cube has six sides, right? Well, cubing is an attempt to consider a subject from six distinct viewpoints. Each one is to be considered only briefly – don’t take more than 20 minutes with all of this.

First, describe your subject. If you want to write about a football team, describe what it is. It may be a group of high school boys who are representing their school in a program that has been a big part of the town for decades. The team wears blue and white and plays eight games in the fall. You want to simply think about what you are looking at.

Next, compare it to something else readers know. What is it similar to? What does it differ from? The football team, unlike the swim team, is all male. In that way it’s like a Boy Scout troop. It’s similar to a college team but players lack the same physical and mental maturity. …

Then find associations. What does the team remind you of? Does the fervor of the young men remind you of a religious sect of some kind? Does it seem militaristic? Does the precision of the plays and gridiron strike you of maneuvers on the battlefield?

Analyze it. Take a deep look at what you are considering. The team is also a financial drain on the school. It requires many other adults and students to work in concert with coaches. It is a unique part of the community.

Can you apply the subject? This one is a bit of a mind-bender, but think of what it’s used for. In the case of the football team, what does it mean to the psyche of the town? How does playing affect the players?

Now argue for and against it. The football team is the heart and soul of the community and a flag around which to rally. It is also a waste of scarce resources and teaches kids to be violent.

Done. Took me 10 minutes at the outside. So what would I do with that? I would look over my answers and ask myself which is the most compelling aspect of the story at hand. Is my subject – an unusual sea creature or a new educational concept, for example — so misunderstood that simply explaining what it is accomplishes my goal? Is it the association or comparison that is most interesting?

It can help you decide on an angle that is intriguing to you. I wouldn’t bother for every story, but it’s an interesting exercise and likely to send you on a path you didn’t consider at first.

Clay

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