Deciphering the Matrix

Deciphering the Matrix

Writing a book that’s a cross between Inception and The Matrix has me thinking about that scene where Neo first sees the Matrix as it really is.





Neo: Is that…

Cypher: The Matrix? Yeah.

Neo: Do you always look at it encoded?

Cypher: Well you have to. The image translators work for the construct program. But there’s way too much information to decode the Matrix. You get used to it. I…I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, red-head….

What an almost perfect metaphor for writing. Most people (ie. people that don’t write) think writing is easy, and it is–as long as you only want someone who occupies a branch on the family tree to approve of it. When the ultimate goal is publication–to earn the trust of an agent or editor, a stranger to you with no bias but for the writing itself, the writing has to pass a level of scrutiny relatives rarely offer. At that point, your writing transcends art and becomes business. Though you wrote it, breathed life into it, and co-habitated with it for months on end, your writing eventually must leave the nest and stand on its own if you wish to pass from writer to author. Enter the matrix metaphor.

Fresh out of the Matrix, Neo is incapable of seeing what Cypher and the other inhabitants of Zion see–a three dimensional, dynamic program capable of incorporating complex settings with robust realistic characters. What he sees on the two dimensional monitors is a stream of green numbers, letters, and symbols–nothing but code. Once a writer gets serious about mastering their craft, he or she must strive to make sense out of that code.  The code in the case of a writer, means nailing the opening–from the first sentence, starting in the right place, maintaining conflict, revealing information as it’s necessary and not before, creating connections to characters, establishing voice, and promoting a pace that propels the reader forward. Failure to do any of these within the first five pages or even the initial 250 words, could result in a rejection that begins, “Dear Author”.

I’m not there yet. I often wonder if I’ll ever get there. Sometimes I’m content to live with the fact that I know I don’t know. That’s something, right? The ability to recognize that you just aren’t sure? I’m trying to convince myself it is, because at least then I can recognize that my writing isn’t better than I thought it was. But I want to see it–to see through the hidden code. To be able to produce all of those crucial elements above without having to rely on others to point out the shortcomings of my work. I’m waiting for that day when all of the books and blogs I’ve read will help me make all the pieces fall into place–when I won’t need the image translators to decode the Matrix. Until then:


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