Thursday, October 22, 2015

In A Single Sentence...

I like to write complex novels.  Simple stories easily bore me, so I want what I write to capture the whole imagination of the reader.  That doesn't mean, however, that I can go so complex that I'm the only one who gets it.  You can write whatever you want, but if your audience can't understand it, then no one but you will read it.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to figure out if your story is too complex - try to condense its description into a single sentence.

Right now, many of you are screaming, "I CAN'T DO THAT!  IT'S AN INSULT TO ME TO SIMPLIFY MY WORK LIKE THAT!"  I get it - we're arteests who need complexity to flourish, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be able to boil it down to its essence.  A sampling:

A man tries to kill God - Salvation Day.

A second American Civil War - Schism.

A ghost story told from the point of view of the ghost - Wrongful Death.

A key trait of my work is that I can tell folks what it's about without having to sit them down in a comfy chair while I recite an hour long soliloquy.  In today's fast moving world, readers want to quickly know if what you've written might be something that'll interest them.  If it takes too long to understand, they'll move on.  God knows there's plenty in the world that'll meet their needs.

From authors much more accomplished than I, here are a few more:

Time travelers help the South win the Civil War - Guns of the South.

A boy wizard tries to stop the return of a malevolent sorcerer - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

A haunted hotel tries to absorb the psychic abilities of a young boy - The Shining.

Reducing a plot to a single sentence is the conundrum I find myself in with my current novel, The Onyx Cluster.  It's a complicated time travel novel about an arrogant scientist who accidentally travels to an apocalyptic wasteland.  Sure, this sentence gives a little bit, but the story has so much more that I know I can find a better description.  I think this is one of the keys to putting out a good story - finding a way to hook people in one sentence.  Remembering this will make your work better.  I only hope I can do the same now, otherwise I'm wasting a lot of time.

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