Friday, May 20, 2011

Gotta love any acronym that ends with "Stupid"

You guys know this one. "Keep it Simple, Stupid." K.I.S.S.

That's what we're really saying when we advise our writer friends to minimize adjectives and adverbs. When we suggest cutting out qualifiers and sentences that don't contribute to the whole.

But what does it mean to our own writing?

To my own writing?

I have a tendency to overcomplicate things. Stuff my novels with characters and send them running. Explore ten themes at once. Let plots loop, overlap and underlay. Sprinkle conspiracies like Easter eggs. I get excited.

The problem is, if I let myself get too carried away, my books read more like the weighty third edition of Pirates of the Caribbean than the streamlined and always entertaining first installment. Need another example? Spiderman. 1 vs. 3. Get the picture?

I can't seem to train it out of myself. I love plot. Plotty, plot, plot. I love the unexpected and I love tying plot threads to unusual things. That's just how my brain works. The gears turn that way. It's part of why I love writing.

So, in order to indulge my love for plot, I try to make my prose as clean and K.I.S.S.ed as possible. In the hope that maybe that will allow me to get away with some of my wilder flights of fancy. Balance, you know? If you're gonna make someone eat something crazy, cover it in butter.

I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it all out.

What does K.I.S.S. mean to you?

Reader's log:

41. Where She Went - Gayle Forman


  1. KISS is the focus on storytelling. There's a sense of the impact to the big picture with each chunk of the story that unfolds. It's meaningful information to the reader. Of course, this all sounds good, but understanding what's "meaningful" to the reader is the tricky part, especially when writers might be able to justify - in their own mind - why some particularly overstuffed parts are "meaningful."

  2. I do the same thing--the first draft of the novel I'm now rewriting was a mess of plots and subplots, some of which weren't bad, but didn't particularly add to the main story I was trying to write.

  3. This is good advice. I've taken a couple picture book classes and it can be really challenging to keep a story around 500 words or whittle it down to 100 or 300 or grow it to 1000-1200. That exercises helps me keep things simple.

  4. I have to remember to keep it simple, too. Sometimes I get so involved with making sure my reader "understands" that I bog down my wip.