Chaos theory in writing

24 Aug

Chaos Theory.

I’ve always found it fascinating. How can one theorize chaos? By definition chaos is “a state of complete disorder and confusion”. So one should not be able to actually have a theory based on complete disorder. It’s a total dichotomy. It’s wonderful.

Chaos theory, or the butterfly effect, states that “complex natural systems obey certain rules but are so sensitive that small initial changes can cause unexpected final effects, thus giving an impression of randomness”.

Sort of like writing isn’t it?

I think most writers are born as writers – some of us just take a little longer to realize our natural DNA. We grow up, go to college, find a job and follow the rules of life, usually writing along the way. Then a small, or not so small, initial change occurs – we read a poorly written book, our children go to college, we evaluate our lives – that causes unexpected final effects – we find ourselves with notebook in hand or fingers poised over the keyboard and a writer is set free.

A butterfly flaps its wings in Africa and a monsoon hits Australia. Chaos Theory.

We write a sentence, a paragraph, and a novel is created.

Think about the random things that spark stories. Recently on our blog Janis wrote about idioms, Peggy about the things that she keeps on her desk, Carley about the woman she sees while riding her bike to work – how many of these totally diverse things have sparked ideas in our own stories? Created characters we didn’t expect?

Writing is chaos theory at its best.

And we are the butterflies heralding its arrival.


Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Idaho


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12 responses to “Chaos theory in writing

  1. Clarissa Southwick

    August 24, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    What a great observation, Meredith. This is an element of my favorite stories, the ones where something small at the start of the book turns out to be the key to the denouement. Thanks for giving us something to think about today 🙂

  2. Carley Ash

    August 24, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    Beautifully written and illustrated, Meredith.

  3. lynn mapp

    August 24, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Meredith, you’ve hit on my problem with writing. Chaos. I write this from my home “office” which shouts chaos. It drives me crazy and I am always seeking ways to create order.

  4. Janis McCurry

    August 24, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    Such a lovely way to illustrate writing…and even life. Thanks for the lyrical take on writing. Hooray for the butterflies in our lives.

  5. Kyrsten

    August 24, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    And, we write about the “randomness” in the lives of our characters which, like our own lives, sometimes turns into something significant and other times continues to just be the “red herrings” of paths not taken, choices made in other directions.

    Thanks so much for sharing, Meredith.

  6. Liz Fredericks

    August 24, 2011 at 8:00 AM

    Chaos theory and writing – love it! And the pictures are beautiful.

  7. Florence Fois

    August 24, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    One of my most unexpected books about a gaggle of funny ghosts began when someone in my writer’s group asked me about “where to you write.” Without thinking I told her “I write in a cave.” and from that the opening of the first draft. My name is Lizzie Brogan and I live in a cave in Brooklyn 🙂

  8. Peggy Staggs

    August 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Chaos…that’s exactly what my writing is like—semi controlled chaos.

  9. maryvine

    August 24, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Beautiful, Meredith. It took me longer than others to realize I had writer’s DNA. Thanks.

  10. Dean K Miller

    August 24, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    We don’t even need to write the sentence. Just the idea crossing our mind gets it all started. Lack of order indicates order. Lack of a pattern, indicates a pattern. Why can’t lack of words, indicate a book?


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