East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Wu Xing for writers – part one


In the pauses of my writing binge I’m trying to put together the bits and pieces I’ll need for my next writing job – a novel looms on the horizon.

Which, in a very circuitous way, leads us to Wu Xing – that is, Taoist elemental theory.

According to the Taoist masters, reality is built by the interplay of five elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.
The five elements are connected by complicated relationships of generation and antagonism.


And considering that my novel features five main characters and is set in China and other parts East, and features magic and mysteries and two-fisted action… why not?

So I’m taking short breaks, while I write and -mostly – scrap whole pages, to do small “elemental sketches” of my five main characters.
And it works.
It does not alter the structure of the story, but it gives it more texture.
The idea of color-coding my characters based on the elements, for instance, is extraordinarily silly, but works.

It can be really superficial, a gimmick if you will, but it helps.

Then there’s the issue of respect for other people’s beliefs – by embedding elements mutuated from Taoism in my story, I force myself to pay attention, and search for situation and solutions that, while being as spectacular and fun as possible, will not offend or displease anyone.
Because it’s true, mine’s a fantasy adventure story, and not a handbook.
But people get touchy about certain subjects.
And by paying attention, I’ll hopefully write a better story.

And yes, as soon as I take another break, I’ll do a second post on how I’m going about this, with a few examples.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Wu Xing for writers – part one

  1. I’ll wait your post and the examples, now I’m very curious! ๐Ÿ˜€


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