Friday, August 6, 2010

When Adding More Makes the Story Simpler

Free-form Friday

I'm a barely competent juggler. One of the things that surprised me on my (short) road to minimal mastery is that it's much easier to juggle three balls than it is to juggle two.

In a similar vein, I don't know if it ranks as a general rule of writing, but sometimes I've found that having more elements simplifies the problem of writing a scene or sequence. Perhaps it's just because the reader doesn't expect as much development with multiple elements, but it often seems easier to show the story when several elements are involved (actions, emotions, concepts) than when I must focus on one element. In an effort not to sound lazy, I think of the analogy to video where short scenes with cutaways are more interesting than long, static scenes.

Adding elements (within reason, of course) can also help "turn up the volume" or increase the stakes in the narrative. For example, it's alarming if the hero is confronted by a killer with a gun, but it's more alarming if the hero, who is afraid of heights, is confronted by the gunman on top of a building.

What do you think? Does more make it easier? Better?

Image: Photography by BJWOK /

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