Monday, June 4, 2012

Keep it Simple...

Recently, one of my writer friends gave me some of the best advice, I think, I've ever received about writing. Now, I've received this particular bit of advice before. It's not new advice. In fact its probably something people have been telling other people for centuries. It's also something people have been ignoring for centuries.

Paraphrased the advice is; keep it simple, stupid. Of course the real advice was something more akin to, "don't let your plot become overly complex as it gets confusing, and keeps you from putting all the fun unique things into your writing" or some other wordy nonsense. Needless to say, I like my version better.

I also went ahead and took this advice one step further, you see, this weekend I was up in Philadelphia with another writer friend, and I was helping her brainstorm a plot. I told her my new plot rule, and she asked for an example. Which of course, stumped me. So I thought about it for a second, and after a second I decided, all plot, in the history of books, can pretty much be (or should be) summed up into one sentence, no more than five words.


Destroy the Ring (LOTR)
Kill the Emperor (Mistborn...or Star Wars)
End the war (the plot I gave my friend)
Save the planet (Captain Planet...what can I say, I'm sleep deprived. Or Well of Ascension)
Don't get killed (Cold Fire/Cold Magic)
Survive the Games (Hunger Games)

Now, I'm not saying that's all the plot should be. Once you have your core plot you can add things to it, and make things interesting.  LOTR's is a three book series in which the Main Character is simply trying to walk into Mordor and destroy the Ring...that being said, there is alot of interesting things, namely characters that get thrown in there to make things interesting. Think about how much more boring the books would have been (and notice I'm saying more boring) had Golum not been corrupted by the Ring, and Strider not turned out to be the Heir of men, and Saurman not going of and doing Sauronish stuff.

Of course, there are other schools of thought, like the only two plots exist thought, "a stranger comes to town" or "someone goes on an adventure" which I don't agree with. Then there is the make your plot super complex school of thought...which I've never actually heard someone advocate for, but I'm just gonna believe it exists anyway.

So, what has been the best writing advice you've ever recieved.

I'm off to BEA, very sleep deprived  (something like 8 hours in two days sleep deprived). But hopefully I will be able to get caffeine between here and there.


  1. That's quite good advice. I'm not so sure about the "only two kinds of plots" school of thought either. Pretty much every good series - book or tv - rides on one simple plot.

    I think the best writing advice I've gotten so far is "Do what works for you".

    Have fun at BEA!

  2. Is it odd that I haven't read LOTR? Best writing advice I've ever received: "Eliminate the Just". It means, get rid of arbitrary thought and focus on the story.

  3. Five words sounds wonderful. The content editor with whom I'm working on my manuscript is turning "plot" into a dirty, four-letter word today. LOL She's making me think of it in terms that are completely new to me. Let's just say I'll never think of plot quite the same way again. I like your KISS approach much better tonight! :-)

    And I tagged you for the Versatile Blogger Award. If you're interested in participating stop by my blog for the details.

    - Jeff

  4. Hope to hear about BEA when you get back. The best advice I've gotten: practice, practice, practice, and don't ever give up.

  5. I love how you look at things! Always interesting. :)

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  7. The five word plot, great idea, and so true.

    I thought I hadn't been here before, but I have. Now I feel silly. hehe. Great blog BTW!