Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Venn Diagrams Apply to Writers By Marie Wells Coutu

Remember math class and Venn diagrams?

If you’re like me (and many other writers), math was not your favorite subject. Bear with me and see how Venn diagrams relate to the writing life.

To refresh your memory, a Venn diagram uses circles to show the relationships between different sets of things. Areas where the circles overlap are the similarities, and areas where there is no overlap represent the differences. These diagrams are often used in business and academia to convey information.

You might use the circles in writing your novel to help you visualize the connections between your characters. Each circle can represent a character’s goals, and the overlap can show you where their goals are similar, perhaps helping you to see how you might depict the theme of the novel in different ways through each character.

In this very simple example, I’ve listed the goals of three characters. The areas where two circles intersect relates to one of their values, in this case, their attitude toward money.

We can see from the diagram that Jane has conflicting values: she believes money will help her gain popularity, but she also knows money can ruin people. John and Jerry both view money as a means to power but John sees that as a bad thing based on his personal failings, while Jerry desires the power that money will give him.

In the middle, where all of these values overlap, is where we find the major conflict for the story.

You could use such a diagram to picture your conflict, theme, or character epiphanies. When you’re outlining, this process may help you develop ideas for your plot. Or after your first draft, a Venn chart could help you identify a weakness or missing element in your character development.

(Hint: You can, of course, draw your diagram by hand but if you prefer to make such things look pretty, you’ll find the basic circles in Microsoft Word: Insert—Smart Art—Relationships—Basic Venn. The main labels for each circle will be there, but you’ll have to use text boxes to add labels to the overlapping areas.)

A diagram like this also can portray your life as a writer. One circle represents your spiritual life, one stands for your physical world, and one is the story you’re writing.

The challenge, as a Christian writer, is to allow these worlds to overlap. The points where your story intersects with your world, connected by your faith, are the points where God will use you to impact other people.

If our goal is to use our writing to spread the message of God’s love, we will pay attention to those intersections. Sometimes we have to come out of our writing cave and live out the lessons He is teaching us. That may involve serving our family, going on a mission trip, or reaching out to a needy stranger in a parking lot. And those interactions can often come full circle by adding spiritual depth to our writing.

Where do your circles overlap? And how can you use a Venn diagram to help with your current work-in-progress?

The points where your story intersects with your world, connected by your faith, are the points where God will use you to impact other people. #amwriting @mwcoutu @MaryAFelkins #writinglife

You can use a Venn chart to help you identify a weakness or missing element in your character development. #writingtips #amwriting @mwcoutu@MaryAFelkins

Marie Wells Coutu finds beauty in surprising places, like old houses, gnarly trees, and forgotten treasures. When she’s not writing about finding restoration and healing through God-designed journeys, she enjoys taking broken things and making them useful.
She is currently working on historical romance novels set in the 1930s. One manuscript won the 2019 Touched by Love Contest and the 2019 Sheila Contest, and a second novel also won in the Sheila Contest.
Her published novels are women’s contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. The Secret Heart, her newest release, and Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, were finalists in several contests.

You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook author page and her website, MarieWellsCoutu.com,
Follow her on Twitter @mwcoutu or on Amazon.


  1. It's too early for math, Marie! It's always too early for math. :) An interesting and unique way to look at the main characters. I'll try this.

    1. Thanks, Sandy. I agree about math, but don't think of it as math but as a visualization tool!

  2. Great way to see clearly what's going on with our characters and how we can leverage that in our writing. Also appreciate how you've applied this to our lives that do seem to circulate in wild ways unless we use the gift of writing to further His kingdom.


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