Thursday, January 07, 2010

So Should Writers Be Shooting For Synergy?

A number of years ago I was asked to speak at...ah...some kind of literary event. I was doing something with some elementary grade students in the morning (Damned if I can remember what, which probably explains why I'm not more popular as a speaker.) At the same time, Colin McEnroe, who is a big noise here in Connecticut, and LuAnne Rice, who is a big noise many places, were doing something with adults somewhere in the building. (I thought LuAnne was sitting across from me in the lobby, but I wasn't sure, so I didn't think I should say anything. What was I supposed to say, "Should I know you? You write something, don't you? What?") Everyone got together for lunch, and during dessert, I got up and gave a talk about Ethan Allen. I didn't exactly have the crowd in the palm of my hand.

Anyway, a number of things were going on in that building that morning. The guy who organized the thing kept saying to me, "We're going to get some good synergy going."

I thought, Hmmm. So synergy, whatever it is, is a good thing?

Yesterday I wrote about a book that's "whole didn't seem greater than the sum of its parts." I Googled that phrase to make sure it meant what I thought it did so that I wouldn't look like a fool to the masses of people who read this blog. And, lo and behold, I found that it is connected to synergy. After looking about a bit more, it seems the term "synergy" is used particularly in business when discussing groups and team work. You've got your various members of the team doing their thing, and when all their "things" are put together a greater "thing" should result that isn't exactly like adding everything together. It's a little leap beyond that.

Presumably sometimes you can add all the parts together and you won't get that leap, that synergy.

Thus my organizer's comment about creating something with his literary event that would be greater than just adding together the components. He was hoping for that little leap, that synergy. (If he didn't get it, I sure hope it wasn't my fault.)

So I immediately had this thought when I read about synergy and the whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-part thing. A piece of writing is made up of elements--character, plot, setting, point of view, and theme. Aren't writers trying to achieve a whole with those elements that isn't just patching or piecing them together, adding them together in some mechanical way? Aren't we shooting for that leap, for synergy? Aren't we most definitely hoping to create a whole that transcends the sum of its parts?

Or have I just wasted a lot of time thinking about this?


Maureen Hume said...

Words can be fabulous and learning a new one I always think is a positive thing for all ages. Synergy is certainly a great sounding word, but for me it sounds too much like energy, which I don't have a lot of at the moment.
Maybe I'll aim for synergy later on in the year. :o)

Unknown said...

Synergy has always been one of my favorite words. I like the way it sounds as well as the meaning. I definitely think that writers create synergy, or at least, that's the goal. It's the thing that formula fiction lacks, and it's why computers can't write good fiction.