Monday, April 2, 2012

Awesome Alchemy

First, I want to welcome anyone making their way here from the A to Z challenge! Thanks so much to all the great bloggers hosting, and especially originator, Lee, at Tossing it Out. Today is the first day, so if you don't know about this, there is still time to check it out.


Alchemy and Me

I first really thought about the process of Alchemy when a group of avid Harry Potter fans was discussing what we thought would happen in the 6th and 7th books of the series. Alchemy, is of course the process by which the Sorcerer's Stone is made in the first book: a stone said to be able to turn any metal to gold, and produce the elixir of life which can make the drinker immortal.


Alchemy, in brief

Disclaimer: If you want the LONG version, Wikipedia has quite the page. My version is FAR simpler and stems out of how we talked about it in those Harry Potter discussions... My memory stinks, so surely I will get some of this wrong and skip giant chunks--in fact most of it, really, but it still fits what I'm trying to say.

The ideal man through the process of alchemy
The Harry Potter version is of course a little different than the alchemical process discussed in history (legend?)--alchemy, being the PROCESS of turning base metal to gold. This process has three tiers, black, white and red and involves all four elements, each representing a season. It happens in seven tiers—and you might see in just that line how the other Harry Potter themes come up—4 elements also go with the four houses, and in fact, until we learned Ravenclaw's artifact, many of us were sure it was a WAND, because the artifacts for the other houses fit the tarot symbols for the elements: Cups, swords, and pentacle (stone of the ring).

Alchemy as a 'science' really petered out in the 16th century (probably as real science gained a little ground) but as a spiritual journey, the idea lasted longer, and it makes sense—it is about being fully rounded and in balance.


Alchemy in writing

So if the stone that starts black, has to go through white and red to reach gold, the STORY may very well have a similar process to achieve gold.

The black first draft: This has the basic ingredients—you know where it goes and and have hammered out the main thing of it.

The first step is to go through and CLARIFY—turn it white by streamlining the plot, removing the big extras, fill in plot holes, remove any confusion. Do you have the STORY JUST RIGHT?

The next step is to light it on fire (red) (not literally) by pushing at the pacing, rewording for power and sparkle... have you SAID IT ALL in the RIGHT WORDS?

And finally POLISH it to shiny gold—typos, spelling, grammar, punctuation... all those pesky details.


Now I wish I could tell you this makes a tale ACTUALLY done, but honestly, what this makes a tale is ready for feedback—you are probably going to have to do all these steps again... and again... but I love looking at each round of editing this way.

25 comments:

Kyra Lennon said...

What an excellent post!

There are times when I want to light my writing on fire! :p

Jan Morrison said...

you and I are sympatico for sure - I did my H yesterday (as I'll be away for ten days) and did it on the four humours - sanguine (air), choleric (fire),melancholic (earth)and phlegmatic (water). They are part of this same system and I would drive my medieval professor mad comparing it to the Buddhist system of types - called the Buddha Families. In that system there are five families but can be quite similar. Love it!!!

Matthew MacNish said...

Also, in video games, you can use it to make potions.

Old Kitty said...

I wish I could apply alchemy to my stories! LOL!! Turn something nasty and unpromising into pure NAKED gold! Sigh!!

Yay for Alchemy! Take care
x

Sylvia Colette Branch said...

ah alchemy - I love that word and all the images it brings up. considered using it as my A post yesterday, but was too tired to make it work! great post ~ pure naked gold alright

Journaling Woman said...

I love saying the word, alchemy. Awesome post!

Teresa

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

oooh! i love this.
and
WOWZA did you get down to the nitty gritty of harry...

Patti said...

So that's why my dissertation isn't published yet... I really DID light it on fire.

DOH!!!! :)

Jess said...

Stopping by from the A to Z Challenge! So nice to meet you!

And I love the alchemy of writing!! What a cool way to put it!

dirtylittlewhispers.com said...

Great post, good luck with the challenge!

Emily R. King said...

I like the parallelisms here. Very well done!

Cate Masters said...

Love the analogy of alchemy to writing. Great post!

Sarah Ahiers said...

ooh nice! I'm inbetween red and gold with the current MS

M Pax said...

I am stuck in black alchemy with my ms right now. Gah. It's being a stubborn cuss.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The first draft is always black. Sometimes the second or third, too.

jaybird said...

Love your cat pic and quote here. Made me smile. I'm knee deep in editing and I want to light it up for sure...but not in the good way. Hoping to get past that and make it to polish.

Tonja said...

Great post. I have to confess I haven't read past the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book. Loved the first chapter.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Hey, Hart, this is so cool! I keep learning such neat things from you.

I think that I will print this one out for my bulletin board.

Thanks, and have fun with A - Z. I am having a lot of fun writing blurbs using my Thesaurus this time around (it is easier to read than the dictionary).

Kathy M.

Helena said...

Love the alchemy allegory for writing and editing polishing. You made a tough process seem more magical.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! I didn't know much about Alchemy before. Now I'll to use it to polish up my ms! :)

Cherie Reich said...

Wonderful post! And I love how you related alchemy to writing. If only it took four drafts to get a manuscript to gold. :)

Cherie Reich - Author

Surrounded by Books Reviews

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Balance? What on earth is that?

J.L. Campbell said...

I like the comparison between the writing process and alchemy. The part I like most in when the story is getting all shiny and closer to being ready.

doreeweller said...

Ha! Sometimes the writing process feels a little like magic; even I don't understand where the words/ ideas are coming from. Other times, it feels like I'm standing over a big boiling cauldron, getting drenched in sweat and wondering how I'm going to soothe all the burns. Thanks for the great new way of looking at things!

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

What a blog, great job! I came via the A to Z challenge too. Great site!