From the film “Forrest Gump” we know that everyone knows something and that even the smartest people are not always as smart as they think they are. Another example is from the SciFy channel show “Eureka”. In the second episode of the First Season, scientist and engineer Henry Deacon and Sheriff Jack Carter (Henry is the genius and Jack is the street smart but “less intelligent” guy). Henry and Jack are out one night investigating an anomaly when Henry’s equipment starts acting up. Henry’s been using a remote control to operate his gear and he immediately starts trying to figure out why the remote isn’t working and horns and alarms are going off. Jack takes the remote from Henry and removes its batteries, disabling all the horns and alarms. Afterward, Henry says, “Now, why didn’t I think of that?”
Now, both Forrest Gump and Eureka are fiction, but fiction often teaches us just as efficiently as nonfiction does. The smartest people don’t always see the easiest solutions. They’re trained to look for complexity and often the most elegant solutions are the simplest.
And that’s the point of this post. What is the best way to write a story, whether fiction or nonfiction? Better yet, what’s the best way to advertise a story after publishing it?
Let’s start with the story. Complexity is important to a good story. The longer the story or novel, the more complex the characters and the plot should be. But simplicity is important, too. Too many complications can slow a story down. Too many characters, too many distractions, too many ideas, too much dialogue, too much description, all can make even the most well written story as slow as molasses pouring out of a jar.
So how do you find the best of these two worlds? One way is to approach it as a reader. To do this, you have to set your ego aside and sit down and read your story for the sake of experiencing it yourself. If you grow tired of it, that’s a good sign that something’s not quite right with it.
How do you fix that? The best way is think to about it. A publisher once wrote that authors don’t spend enough time thinking about their writing. For every hour of writing, she suggested, you should spend at least two hours thinking about it.
So, you might ask, “I think about it when I write it, what more do I need to think about it?” Well, our minds are like computers. That comparison has been in use since the 1950s. But what I’m trying to say is that much of our reasoning is done in the background, even as most computing is done behind the scenes. While we are doing yard work or walking somewhere, driving somewhere, reading someone else’s book or blog (like now), watching television or a movie, or playing video games, or exercising our subconsciousness is hard at work trying to figure out what needs to be done to make your story or novel better.
And you can prompt your subconscious along, too, by saying to yourself repeatedly, “How can I make my story better?” Pray and meditation work well, too. But remember to keep asking yourself, “How can I make this better?” That prompt is important.
The simplicity of thought, the constantly asking yourself how you can make your work better, move faster, make more sense, reveal your characters better, that’s the simple and elegant and best thing you can do for your writing and your story. See, to be a writer, you have to be a problem solver.
Writing is more than words and grammar. It’s more than images and ideas. It’s figuring things out. It’s making the complex puzzle of a story seem simple to the reader. It’s putting the Lego blocks together to make a house or a boat or a horse or dragon, without having a design or map to follow. It’s solving problems.
Essentially, all art is solving problems.
So, now, what about advertising? Well, the old fashion way is to buy ads in newspapers and magazines, on the radio and television, to spend money to make money. That’s old school.
New school is to make a connection with the reader. That used to be the purpose of blogs and vlogs. And it still is.
The problem is creating an audience. If you’re a painter, a musician, an actor, or a dancer, you find a public place to perform your art. You can do that, too, as a writer. You can stand there, or sit there, or even lie down and block foot traffic, but hopefully not wheeled traffic (and especially not tank, bull dozer, or panzer traffic) and read your story aloud to passers by.
You can also print it on your blog or read it aloud on you vlog. And if you’re not comfortable reading aloud in public, well, then hire someone to do it for you. But make sure you pay them in some way and pay them well. No one likes to work for a cheap employer. And you don’t want your public reader saying things like, “This story sucks and so does the guy paying me in pennies to read it for him.” Or, “her.”.
Writing is not so much what you know or how complex it is, as it is what the message is and how long and hard you’ve thought about it.
See you out there.