Friday, May 26, 2017

Don't Over Complicate Your Story

Too often, I find authors who have a great premise to their stories, and yet, completely screw it up by over-complicating things. In most of the cases, the added complication comes from adding far too many additional sub-plots to the story. The result, is, the story completely loses focus from that central theme and story arc that sounded so good at the beginning.

When I explain this to writers, I love to use the Harry Potter series as a great example. Consider that last novel. By the time Rowling got to The Deathly Hollows, she had so many sub-plots going and so many characters that it required two novels just to wrap things up. Everyone in the story needed a conclusion, and in some cases, the conclusions contradicted each other.

For authors doing this in a 75,000 - 100,000 story, the addition of all of these additional elements means that something else is going to be sacrificed. What we see is the story now lacking a depth of character and plot development. In other words, in order to get to all of the plots, the author sacrifices really providing depth for the central story arc.

What I have found is that this issue generally stems from authors getting hung up on the GMC's of their characters. This would be the Goals, Motivations and Conflicts. Authors spend so much time trying to justify behaviors that they end up creating additional plots. For example, a character is overly committed to their work and is a borderline work-a-holic. Instead of simply saying this is how this person has always been their entire life, they create a huge backstory with an abusive father. They may also create a secondary sub-plot with another company that is now run by a friend from college... and then it falls apart with a past relationship of someone stealing the other person's girlfriend... I think you can see where this goes to.

Adding over-the-top conflicts does the same thing. Instead of simply picking a great conflict and working with it, the author now creates multiple conflicts to make the story even more interesting or giving the character more challenges to work with. While this might seem like a great approach at that time, the author forgets that to solve the problems will require a lot of additional work. Again, to meet the word count issue, the main story is sacrificed.

As you are plotting your story, make sure to really pay attention to the main story arc. Think of everything that you are adding and keep asking yourself if those pieces can be done in an easier way. Can a character already in the story provide that information? Can this action or scene be justified with just a personality? The more you do this, the more you will keep that focus you wanted when you started writing the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment