The Rocket Science of Writing

Being complicated doesn’t make your story good. It isn’t said often enough, but a Byzantine plot doesn’t equal a complex story. Who really wants a complicated story anyway? What we want are characters we can care about, events that are worth watching, and maybe a setting that keeps us engaged.

That’s writing in a nutshell. If you need a deeper analysis than that then you are probably trying too hard.

Writing is hard enough without putting undue pressure on yourself. Just sitting down and creating a single interesting character is hard enough. The notion that you have to come up with something complicated for them to do is something we’re taught because . . . well, I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because as simple and obvious as the idea of creating an engaging character sounds, it isn’t all that simple. It is where I feel most aspiring writers fail when writing their stories. Give me someone to care about, first and foremost. Without that, you’re almost always wasting my time.

The problem is that it’s very difficult to nail down what makes a character sympathetic or interesting. Plot is simple. Plot is a series of events that lead from the beginning to the end. Plot can be crafted with incredible care, charted out, mapped like a road leading us on a path we’ve traveled a thousand times, yet somehow still worth walking. Plot isn’t easy, but it is easier to understand, easier to nail down. Yet many a book completely neglects plot and somehow still works.

This is the truth I always share with aspiring writers. Stop worrying about your story. Start worrying about your characters. Give them life. Care about their future. Make them worth reading about, and the audience will be happy to travel with them. Neglect this, and it doesn’t matter how well-researched your story is or how elaborate your outline is.

It’s not the ride we care about. It’s the company.

Unless your story stinks, in which case you should probably fix that.

-- A. Lee Martinez, DFWWW Member since 1995

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