Wednesday, October 14, 2009

WiP Wednesday: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

"It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away". Antoine de Saint Exupéry

I'm learning that simple is complicated. While the phrase "Keep it Simple, Stupid", usually refers to using the fewest amount of words to say what must be said, I think it can also be applied to plotting. A plot that's too complicated is like a tiny planet overgrown with baobabs-- you can't see the planet through the trees.

The novel I'm currently querying, EVANGELINE, has a pretty complicated plot. In order to figure out a way for the story to make sense (girl goes back in time, why? How?) things got, well, a little complicated. I applaud my betas for being able to follow it, really. And it's definitely the one thing I wish was easy to revise, but it's too, ya know, complicated to change without creating a paradox in the space-time continuum and destroying life as we know it. You wouldn't want me to do that, would you?

My WiP "As Yet Untitled/Mara's Story" has a fairly simple plot. Maybe simple is the wrong word, but far more straightforward than EVANGELINE. Sure, there are paranormal elements, but it's really a murder mystery. And so, while the plot should definitely have twists and red herrings and there should (obviously) be some major obstacles for the heroine to overcome, the story should stay pretty simple.

Or at least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Simple is hard for me, the queen of complicated plots. I used to think that complicated = original. How can a work be derivative if it's this complicated? I've learned a lot about writing in the past few years, enough to know that original ideas can be simple, too, and that a few plot twists don't disguise the fact that a story is really just another star-crossed lovers trope. (please don't blame me for the hours you waste after clicking this link)

Not that there's anything wrong with that, either. As I wrote in a post last week, the same old stories can always be updated for the current generation.

But my WiP doesn't need any of that. I know who-dunnit, and I'm slowly figuring out what that means for the heroine. I just need to follow my scene goals and keep myself from needlessly complicating things.

Anyone else have this problem? I'd love to hear about how others deal with keeping their little planets baobab free, er, I mean, keeping their plots from getting too complicated. ;)


Tamika: said...

My second WIP is a very straightforward storyline, there are hidden subplots that build to the greater plot. But nothing complicated. That is probably more for my sake than the reader.

I generally don't run in too many directions. The jury is still out on whether that is good or bad.

Happy writing!

Abby said...

I like complicated plots. Maybe that's why I love Evangeline so much. :)

I've always felt like my plot in my first novel isn't complicated enough. I worry about it being considered boring or too simple because of that. But I'm more than making up for it in #2. The further I get into this story, the more complicated it gets. Gives me a headache sometimes.

Sorry, I don't have any advice. I think some stories just need to be complicated to work, and I think that makes them better. Usually. ;)

T. Anne said...

Every time I come across something like that in my WIP I think SS (stupid statement) then delete.

Susan R. Mills said...

I think we all complicate things. It happens to me when I let my nagging characters take hold of the story and run with it. Some complications work. Some don't.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I have this problem in my YA as well. The mythology is complicated and maybe too much so. But I'm not sure how to fix it without completely rewriting the whole story.

My second WIP, I decided to go for a straightforward contemporary romance. The feedback from beta readers is much stronger than on book one. So simple definitely works better for me.

Tess said...

My problem is that I write too directly -- too simple. My revisions are all about going back and layering in more complication. I'd love to be so creative as you seem to be. It is actually a gift, I think.

Lisa and Laura said...

Our book that's currently on sub is a twisty mystery and full of complications. It's a freaking nightmare to revise a mystery and although I can't wait for the book to sell (fingers crossed!), I'm sort of terrified to have to revise again.

The book that we're writing now is so easy by comparison. It's chunked up into five very distinct sections and it's pretty darn simple.

It totally agree with the KISS mentality, and for the record if you are trying to keep it simple, STAY AWAY FROM MYSTERIES.

Krispy said...

I tend towards complication because I always think my plots aren't complicated enough. My Nano project last year was a retelling of a fairy tale, and so it was pretty straightforward - or at least, it should have been. I started to think it was too linear and needed some more excitement, so I complicated things and it got way too complicated. It turned into a mess and thinking about how to fix it sort of hurts my brain, but I'll probably get back to it eventually. :P

Shelli said...

i think if you can explain it in a few sentences - you are fine. If it takes you too long to explain - it may need to be simplified.

Tere Kirkland said...

Wow, y'all have given me a lot to think about.

I did a little plotting last night before I started typing, and yeah, I've got some twisting subplots. But at least I can understand them, and there is a basis in character motivation for every action. With Evangeline, I had to create a believable system of magic, and let me tell you, THAT was complicated.

I'm discovering mysteries can get complicated very quickly, too, which is why I've been trying so hard to keep this plot fresh and original, yet easy to follow. I think that the murder mystery part can still be mysterious without getting needlessly complex.

It's very straightforward compared to my last novel.

I'll keep you all posted, and thanks again!