How To Write Awesomely Simple Stories
Many of the best stories are simple stories.
Albert Einstein said that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know it well enough, and that things should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Henry Longfellow agreed: “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
What Is Awesomely Simple?
- Awesomely simple is elegant complexity
- Awesomely simple is focused art
- Awesomely simple is cutting away the unnecessary parts
- Awesomely simple is leaving in the necessary parts
- Awesomely simple is refined understanding
- Awesomely simple is compact meaning
- Awesomely simple is clarity
- Awesomely simple is small but substantive
- Awesomely simple is compelling
- Awesomely simple “clicks” with the heart and mind and soul
- Awesomely simple is baked in
- Awesomely simple is both substance and presentation
3 Steps To An Awesomely Simple Story
Awesomely Simple Design
Design is the make up — the look and mechanics — of story. The literary DNA.
It is how you organize the narrative, the premise and outline, the series of events or happenings that, combined, tell the tale.
Leonardo Da Vinci knew this concept well. He said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
The Greeks talked about simple story design in “unities”:
- Unity of Time
- Unity of Place
- Unity of Action
The goal is awesomely simple design. Limit the story (if possible) to one time, one setting and one goal/conflict. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
For example my novel, Wicker Hollow, occurs in three days, in a small town and resolves around the major conflict of a family trying to survive in the aftermath of a fallen angel.
Awesomely Simple Execution
Once we have a simple design, the next step is execution.
Execution is how we translate design into reality – ideas into words. What matters most is the accuracy of the translation.
Awesomely simple translation includes:
- “Simple words and fresh images” – Stephen King
- Short words
- Short, direct sentences
- Short paragraphs
- Every action and event is logical and causes a logical reaction in the story universe
This is not to say “big” words, fancy sentence structure or long paragraphs can not be used. Simply that they be the exception.
Besides, we could all do worse than listen to Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific authors of all time (500 books). “I guess I’m prolific because I have a simple and straightforward style.”
Awesomely Simple Streamline
After execution is editing, or streamlining.
Streamlining is reducing the story to it’s simplest form and, like Einstein, no simpler.
When streamlining, ask yourself:
- What can I take out?
- What can I replace?
- What can I combine?
- What can I reduce?
Often, there are scenes or characters or dialouge or actions that, removed, both clarify and simplify the story.
There are usually better words, settings or scenes that can replace those that currently exist in the story.
With some thought, you might be able to combine characters (the waiter is also the killer) or settings (the headquarters is also the location of the big fight scene) or sentences (two sentences into one).
Reduce, reduce, reduce.
But be warned: at some point, reduction strips away power from the story.
“Kill your darlings” but not your design!
Awesomely Simple Summary
- Simple Design – what is the simplest and shortest summary of the story? Greek Unities- Time, place, action.
- Simple Execution – Simple and straightforward style. Direct. Conversational. Concise. Clear.
- Simple Streamline – Reduce, reduce, reduce.
How do you keep it simple?