Keeping It Simple

As writers, try to keep it simple.

What? You’re nuts! I have to do all this research, I gotta keep my characters straight, I gotta come up with viable plots. Simple my butt!!”

I didn’t say easy. I said simple. As a writer, if you’re attempting to create the Great American Novel, you may as well jump off of something very tall right now. It’s not that you can’t create it, maybe you can, but you probably ain’t gonna do it on purpose. Your perception of your work is your responsibility. Your job is to write. It is not your responsibility to control how anyone else perceives your work.

Some years ago, I wrote a piece of around 1500 words about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (from the serpent’s perspective) for a radio program. It only took a couple of hours and was great fun. I voiced the piece myself, and it created a bit of a stir in the gaggle of listeners. Most of the people who commented on the thing relayed their perceptions on the different “layers” of the work, the alternative perspectives in the narrative, the depth of thought and self-examination that must have gone into its creation.

I wrote a story. That’s all. I didn’t write layers, I didn’t engage in self-examination, I just wrote something to entertain somebody else. If that somebody wanted to complicate matters for their own edification, not my problem...not my fault. Interpretation is out of your control and is also sometimes ludicrous. Recall William Jefferson Clinton’s observations on what the “Meaning of is, is.” Sigmund Freud is credited with the statement, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Even Bill Clinton should be able to identify with that.

Having recently done a couple myself, I perused some blog sites looking at author interviews. I admit to being a little agog at how some authors would spend 400 words on a question that could easily have been answered in two short sentences. I do hope they don’t write like that. Mark Twain once wrote that the “inmates” in congress could sometimes talk for a week without ever getting rid of an idea. How many books by a congressman have you enjoyed?

Get to the point. We’re storytellers, and a book is simply a series of short stories, called chapters, that end up creating a longer story. Don’t try to be literary. The term “literary” confuses me. I once asked a lady who was the director of several university libraries, exactly what the term literary meant. “It means nobody buys them,” she said.

Keep it simple, no matter how complicated it gets.

At least that's how it seems to me.

David

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