Reflections In Hindsight

Grace in the Rearview Mirror…it's closer than it appears

  • Ephesians 4:29

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It’s Too Complicated!

Posted by Luther D. Powell on August 9, 2012

After a creative summer filled with commission work, brainstorming, reading, brainstorming, writing AND brainstorming, I have come to a uniquely unpleasant conclusion:

My story is way too complicated.

Not only do I feel that the plot of this book I’m writing needs some serious dumbing-down, but I’ve managed to cycle almost all the way back to where I began rewriting the whole thing two or three years ago! Stuff that I thought was cut out for good crawled back out of its grave and screamed in my face, “I’m good story material! USE ME!”

See, it was two years ago or so that depression reared its ugly head in my life, and basically told me that nothing I wrote was realistic enough. The pain I felt then didn’t reflect off any of my characters; none of them seemed human to me (I mean…few of them ARE human, but you know what I mean). After reading over my “first book,” I thought, none of this works. So I shelved it and started thinking up completely different stories. Now THOSE are shelved temporarily and I’m back to the first story. I’ve punished this keyboard all summer trying to get it where I want it. It has hit me now that I might have accidentally brought back everything that pushed me to rewrite it in the first place. That being, way too much stuff.

I, for one, love books and movies that make me think. Of course, you need good characters as well, but there’s something about how a plot leaves you immediately thinking, “I’ll definitely have to watch/read that again,” that goes to show that a writer knows what he/she is doing. Some examples of movies I enjoy that also make me think: Inception (first one that comes to mind), The Prestige, Donnie Darko (not the best movie ever, but it’s got style), Source Code, and Jacob’s Ladder. Call me crazy, but I can really get into stories that flip my brains inside out. The stories that you have to recover from, that’s powerful. It takes skill for a story to do that. I feel it’s safe to say, as a writer, I don’t want to write single-read books. I want my readers to feel compelled to pick my book up again to catch all the little details they missed the first time around.

Here’s my problem. It is obvious to me that not everyone likes to have their brains flipped inside out. In other words, some of my friends didn’t like Inception, because it was “too complicated.” One of my favorite TV shows, Community, is being rumored to get cancelled soon because viewers have complained that it’s “too complicated.” Community is a comedy, and I personally think it’s revolutionary to have comedy that makes people think, but I understand why some don’t enjoy it. I understand because I’m starting to see my own story as “too complicated!” I thought simplifying it would make it easier to write, but that made it kind of boring for me. Now I’m back at my original problem: it doesn’t feel realistic enough, but not because my characters don’t seem human enough. There’s just too much happening! Too may coincidences, and not enough quiet time. Keep in mind, I’m writing horror. I want to deprive my readers of sleep, but not because they’re confused; I wanna creep people out! …You know, for Jesus.

Part of me considers splitting the one book (one out of an already-series of books) into other books. Maybe a trilogy of its own? Ted Dekker is a big inspiration to me in that area of writing, because he hasn’t just written a series of books. :Spoiler alert!: Ted Dekker has managed to write separate trilogies, completely different storylines, and connect them so that readers will want all of it anyway! I’ve never seen anybody else do that, so naturally, new as the method seems, I kind of want to try it. But I don’t want to write three books right now! I want to write one! AUGH!

How does one go about cancelling out complicated stuff? I enjoy coming up with a few twists here and there, but once you’ve written yourself into the singularity of a black hole of swirling plot bridges and all-too-convenient coincidences, I think there’s an issue. What kinds of character development can be left out? Do so-and-so and whatshername really have to meet up in order to keep the story rolling? Do any of you writers out there ever have this problem?

I really need to work on endings for these blogs. That’s all for now, folks! Same time next week, I’ll be back in Bowling Green awaiting the start of a new school year. Weird. God bless, readers!

In Christ,

Luther D. Powell

2 Responses to “It’s Too Complicated!”

  1. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav) said

    It sounds like you’re a plot-driven novelist rather than a character-driven novelist. The editor over at Marcher Lord Press, Jeff Gerke, is the former, and he’s written some great stuff for similar authors who want to develop characters, but he also strives to balance the act for character-driven novelists. No matter how complicated the story – and up to a point, I like complicated stories, being character-driven myself – it can be developed along the lines of inner and outer conflicts for your protagonist(s). I highly recommend his material for helping keep a plot (and its creator) sane while seeking order in the midst of complexity.

    Maybe some basic questions about your chief protagonist are in order, such as, what does he or she have to overcome inwardly or outwardly? You know, like the questions asked (on BABYLON 5) by the Vorlons and the Shadows respectively: “Who are you?” “What do you want?” (And finally by their teacher, “Where are you going?”)

    Oh, and don’t be too discouraged. It took me forty years to work out the logical framework of my fictional universe to where I could live with it. Along the way I made countless revisions, rejections, total destructions, and zombie-like resurrections of ideas in my mind. But once I understood how my mind worked, and how my fictional universe reflected that working, things finally fell into place. And Jeff Gerke’s material had its own very great value for me there.

  2. Joni Deever said

    Well written Elaine. Thank you for standing up for God’s word and the truth.

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