by Cait Collins
Think back to when you were a kid. You didn’t worry about where you would live, buying groceries, paying bills, or finding a doctor. Your parents took care of those things All you had to do was play and have fun. A child’s life is so uncomplicated until it gets mucked up. With too many activities, to manage, too much pressure to succeed, and not enough time to be just a kid, life becomes a complex maze. . And sometimes this’s the way we write.
Our stories get complicated when we over think and over write the piece. Even though we have a plot line, we know the beginning and the end, and we have an idea of how to go from point a to point z , we’ll still bury the characters in back story, stifle them with orations, and baffle them with details. When the story is completed we have a ton of complicated plots, unnecessary information and complex phrases. The story is tedious, the pace slow, and the characters made of cardboard. What happened? Simply put, we made a simple story complicated.
I don’t spend tons of time researching every detail I think I might need. I cannot force myself to outline each scene and stick to the plan even when the plan is falling apart. I’m a “pantser”. I fly by the seat of my pants, and so do many of my writer friends. Pantsers have character sketches, jotted notes, and maybe a brief time line. We tend to allow our characters to act independently of our control. Believe me when I say some of my best work comes when I let the characters take over and lead me down the road. It may not be the route I had in mind, but often it is better. By stifling the character’s need to play, I complicate the story. Planners, on the other hand, need defined structure to keep the plot moving. Both ways work as long as we discipline ourselves to allow our opposing characteristic to have a say in the process.
There are simple steps we can take to keep the work in our respective voices. Don’t over-do the description. Sorry, but two pages of an ode on the rising sun becomes boring in a narrative. Don’t allow technical jargon to over-power the story. Do permit your character to play. Bored children give birth to mischief and a ruined plot line. Do allow your imagination to blossom. Refuse to force ideas to make the plot follow your directions. Do be prepared for rewrites. Think like a child and act accordingly. A little temper tantrum may be the best thing for the story.