Confession: I often overcomplicate things.
The thing I need to learn is that simpler really is better. (P.S. I had to rewrite that sentence three times. The first thing I said was that I needed to more fully integrate the maxim: the simpler, the better. Yikes.)
I admit wholeheartedly that my fear is simple equals stupid. When the actual deal is, if you try too hard, sometimes that’s when you look stupid. I think Stephen King said it best: “One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”
This is also relevant for larger scale things, like plot. Sometimes, when I write an outline, I think it sounds way too cheesy. Yet, when it comes to outlines, cheesy is good. An example of this is when I went recently to watch Tangled in the theaters. ****Spoiler alert: Skip to next paragraph if you haven’t seen Tangled yet and don’t want me to mess it up for you****** At the end, when all seems hopeless and she begins to cry, my first thought was that the magic would be in her tears. My next thought was, no, that would be stupid. Then, when it actually happened, I was very excited. It worked! How did it work? Just a second ago I thought it would be stupid. It was a message to me. What at first may seem cheesy in theory can be made to work well. The simpler the better.
The irony: It’s actually harder to boil down the complex into something simple than to take something simple and make it more complex. Have you ever tried writing a one-line summary of your entire novel? If you haven’t already, try to do so now. Do it in 15 words or less. And make it sound compelling. And really try to get across the main plot point of your book. If you could do it easily, you’re probably a simplicity genius and you don’t need this blog.
My favorite quotes on simplicity, because I love quotes!
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein