Tag Archives: Rules of Thumb

Avoiding Complication

31 Aug

I finally picked up the craft book Rules of Thumb, edited by Michael Martone and Susan Neville, and I wanted to mention an early piece on “Complexity” by Paul Maliszewski. He talks about reading work by students who avoid complication in their stories—one student puts and keeps a husband in a coma while the wife rails at his recent sins, but, of course, rails alone—and how much playing it so safe drains the story of any energy. I’m not doing him justice, so you’ll have to get the book, but I wanted to remind myself and any writer friends following this project: Don’t skip the hard stuff! A character gets fired but you skipped the firing? Why? A woman leaves her husband but you don’t give us the scene when he catches her packing? What gives? The story is supposed to be about the hard stuff. Take a deep breath, and, yeah, go there.