The tone of this guy's writing reminds me of all ad copy aimed at teenagers from 1996.
The first idea (“move towards the complicated”) is, I think, best understood as a habit of mind generally worth cultivating. Basically: steer towards the rapids. Say we’re writing “Little Red Riding Hood,” and we’ve just typed: “One day, Red’s mother handed her a picnic basket and told her to go see Granny, but not to talk to any strangers along the way.” So—should we have her meet a stranger? Yes. Should that stranger be potentially dangerous, like, say, a wolf? Sounds promising. Should Red engage with the wolf? (What a drag, if, at that point, she takes Mom’s advice and ignores the wolf: story over). Should the wolf she meets be evil, or a gentle, New Age wolf, who gives her some nice poems about daughter/granddaughter relations? Looking at a familiar story like that one, it’s pretty clear: a story is a thing that is full of dozens of crossroads moments, and if we make a habit of first, noticing these, and, second, steering toward the choice that gives off incrementally more power (or light, or heat, or throws open other interesting doors, etc.), this will, over the long haul, make the story more unique, more like itself, more incendiary. (Although even as I type this, I find myself intrigued by the poem-giving wolf. . . . )
Strange but true fact: Baskin-Robbins reports their best-selling ice-cream flavor is vanilla. Think of all the wonderful flavors out there, and the public buys more vanilla. This is followed by the other two – chocolate and strawberry. I too likes me some circumlocution, but there are reasons people write vanilla and that is to sell to their audience. I’ve been advised to flatten a few story ‘arcs’ in the past (not that I sell many stories, so maybe that’s the problem right there). This might be my bad, as in the story can’t be followed, or the reader’s bad, as in the reader can’t cope with the curves. Either way, it’s the same effect. What do to?
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