What Baba Is You Taught Me About Writing

So I beat the puzzle game Baba Is You this weekend, after 72 hours of moving text blocks around to create sentences that would allow… well, here’s the trailer, this game’s kind of hard to explain:

Anyway, there was this moment yesterday afternoon when I realized exactly how all of the words and elements on the screen would be manipulated to solve the final puzzle (which I’d been working on for about four days at that point, since you had to solve a bunch of smaller sub-puzzles to get access to the movable components of the large one), and I was like ooooh this is a great ending, it was invisible until just this moment but it makes perfect sense.

Which is kind of how you want to construct a story, right?* With an ending that isn’t so obvious that you spot it right away (because otherwise it’s less about interacting with the words and more about already knowing where they’re going to go, so you might as well get through them as quickly as possible) but also fits perfectly with everything you’ve experienced thus far.

Invisible and then inevitable.

So… I mean, of course I’m thinking about how to apply all of this to NEXT BOOK, because at this point the revision process feels very much like playing a video game, in that I’m solving the puzzle of “how do I make this scene communicate what it needs to communicate” and then I’m instantly checking the walkthrough to make sure I didn’t miss anything important (or, in some cases, to help me figure out where to go next).

Right now, for example, my to-do list includes “revise Lovelace scene” for Monday (which I did), “revise Trudy scene” for Tuesday, and “review/rework plot doc” for Wednesday. From there, I’ll figure out which scene (or puzzle) to approach next.

This may be because I’ve set this book up to have a handful of BIG MOMENTS where PIECES GET PUSHED INTO PLACE and CHARACTERS UNLOCK NEW INFORMATION, like, I’m not saying that all books have to be written this way, but for better or worse I’ve started writing a book that begins with a character finding a door that leads into another world and ends with something that I hope will be invisible for most of the story and then inevitable.

I am still not sure, by the way, whether this book will be any good. But if I end up putting five hours a week of writing time into something that only turns out to be practice for the NEXT next book, that’s still fine.

After all, I just put 72 hours (over the past three months) into a puzzle game, and even though you could call that “wasted time,” it ended up teaching me something new. ❤️

*Yes, I know that we also come to stories because we know how they end and we want to experience the emotions the story engenders in us. In this case I’m referring to stories where we don’t already know the plot—and yes, that includes all of us going into something like Oedipus Rex completely blind, PUN INTENDED. (Yes, “everyone in Greece knew the story of Oedipus which is why it’s a perfect example of Aristotelian catharsis” or whatever, but they still had to hear the story for the first time at some point.)

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