Thursday, July 10, 2014

Good Storytelling: Is Simple Better Than Complicated?

The more I work at ironing out my plots and trying to make every word count, the more I admire good storytelling.

Like Pixar movies. Even Pixar movies I've seen a dozen times never cease to amaze me. There are little things here and there - original, streamlined, no-more-no-less storytelling that make each movie simply incredible.  The plots may be simple, but simple isn't a bad thing.

They're deceptively simple, in fact. It's *hard* work, making every scene of your story lead to the next scene - making everything fit together in one understandable and cohesive whole, to raise the stakes little by little.  Simple?  Maybe.  But you should never judge how hard something is till you've done it yourself: and writing a streamlined story is a lot harder than it looks.

It's confusing and tiring work. And I'm just starting to learn that simple is often better than complicated.

Somehow, Brad Bird can tell a better story with a rat in Paris than I can with a haunted teenager in a complicated fantasy world. And I think any writer could benefit by studying just how he and other Pixar directors do it.

All I'm saying is, if I ever get half as good at telling stories as Andrew Stanton or Pete Docter or Brad Bird or John Lasseter, I might actually be able to turn my good ideas into good stories. Here's to hoping.

What about you?  What are your stories, the ones that you fall back on when you need a reminder of what good storytelling looks like?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Blue said...

I recently re-read some of my Chronicles of Narnia books. The stories seem simple enough, especially if one has read them about a thousand times. Even still, I paused more than once to put the book down and smile: "wow, that was so good!"
It would be amazing to be able to write a book that a 'young child' can find adventure in and an 'old child' can find meaning (as well as adventure) in.

Bound and Freed said...

Once a convoy from the king approached an artist reknown for his skill. They wished to bring back a sample masterpiece so that the king could see if the artist was as good as people said. If the artist was, then he would be offered a position as the king's own artist. The artist was very busy so he grabbed a canvas and, with one swoop, outlined a circle. Sending this as his sample masterpiece, the artist returned to his other work.
When the king received the simple circle, he was very angry. What did this artist mean by sending him a childish shape?
But as the king began to examine the circle, his attitude change from anger to awe. It was a perfect cirle -- such as one could draw with a compass -- but this artist drew it freehand! Despite his examination, the king could find no flaws. Amazed by the skill of the great artist, the king sent for him and promoted him to the position of royal artist.
This is how I sometimes feel when I read/watch a story by a great writer. It is so simple and yet, as the king was in the story, I am awed by its perfection.

Keturah Lamb said...

Love that story. I agree simple is sometimes the best :b but I really love the classics. Those may be considered simple, but the have a lot of thought put into them.