The Barebones of Writing

Life is complicated, therefore writing should be complicated. This is not necessarily the case.

English: An illustration of

English: An illustration of “The Frog and the Ox” by Charles Bennett from The fables of Aesop and others translated into human nature (1857) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing is described often as an art or as a calling or a vocation or even a career. It has so many labels that people often try to make it more complicated. They push for something that resembles a masterpiece. This in itself is not a bad goal to have but there’s something to be said for keeping it simple. The heart of writing is humanity. Writing is about people. It can involve representations of human nature in other things such as animals or robots but at essence it is about the human condition. Without characters there would be no story at all.

Have you ever watched or read something that was so incredibly complicated but seemed to lack something, almost as if the writer had tried so hard to be clever that it worked against the story instead of for it. The characterization may come across as implausible and the story more complex that it needs to be. It’s easy to fall into this mistake but remember that if you ask most people for their favourite film or favourite book and why it’s their favourite, they often mention a favourite character or scene. Often they may not even be able to say why they like it, it has something that they want and that’s the essence of it.

It’s always worthwhile to work out your stories, to imagine them and where they might be going, but remember that it’s not about trying to be exceptionally clever, it’s about the story itself. It’s about those particular characters in those particular settings, what they think and feel and what happens to them. Don’t let your desire to be a good writer override that knowledge. Writing is not always something that can be grasped consciously, often it has to be allowed the freedom to be what it is, even if you don’t actually know what that really means.


12 thoughts on “The Barebones of Writing

  1. I believe that writing is an art, because not everyone can write. However, it should be fun to write. If a writer doesn’t enjoy his characters, story, or plot, then in my opinion, it’s not worth writing! Writing should be a way to escape, just like with reading, and yes, it is hard sometimes, but you also have to enjoy being a writer.

    Great post!


  2. People do try to make writing complicated, but I think it’s worse when writers themselves try to make their work complicated for the sake of it. I’ve found that also happens because they couldn’t control the plot and wrote it without fine-tuning or taming it.

      • Characters can become too independent and too unpredictable. If you don’t know one hundred percent who they are, that is bound to give you trouble. You will suddenly find yourself writing things that your character wouldn’t ever say or do.

      • Very true. I like to see where my characters will go and how they will change but at heart I always know what sort of person they are and therefore when crunch time comes I know what choices they will make.

  3. “Trying too hard to be clever” is how I feel about Joss Whedon’s writing. As much as his work is beloved (and wow do people queue up to worship it!), I feel like it lacks something essential and lasting. Thanks for the food for thought. šŸ™‚

  4. Great post! This is so true. Many times, rules and more rules, do’s and don’ts complicate the art so much that there is little left for inspiration, and there it goes, you end up with writer’s block because you are so worried about all these “rules to perfection.” I decided to embrace learning but not at the cost of inspiration.

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