A kiss is simple, right? Two lips touch, that’s all. But science has shown us that there is more igniting going on within our brains and body simply by the touch of a lover’s lips. On the same level, some of the best, most delicious food is so remarkably simple. Take pizza. Who does not like pizza? Simple ingredients, even if you make your own dough, yet tons of people love it!
You must be wondering what this has to do with writing. Well, like pizza and kisses (odd combination but it got your attention right?), writing is simple. If you over complicate an idea or a phrase, you will lose your audience. That is not to say dumb it down to the point that it’s like watching TV. As a writer, you are a tight rope walker balancing on the edge of giving the audience enough that they are excited and engaged but at the same time making it simple so that readers don’t feel as though they are trudging through a muck of useless words.
What is simple, you ask? Simple is sometimes stating “He walked towards the opened door” rather than “He walked towards the oval, mahogany door with trimming reflective of the Victorian era.” Do we really need to know that much about the door? Is it that important to the setting? Sometimes a door is just a door, nothing more. Too often we get carried away with wanting to make everything look and sound beautiful and tremendously amazing thinking that our big words and ability to spout descriptions will win the audience over.
Don’t be deceived. It will not. I, too, have found my language often flowery when there is no need or where it would be better suited in a different place. Even when weaving a plot, we like to read twists and turns. Yet, putting too many or making it difficult to follow gets messy and unpleasant to read. Don’t over-complicate. Set your dough in place (your main story line), add the sauce (the problem), sprinkle on the cheese (the setting), then toss on toppings (characters, descriptions, literary tools, etc.). Like pizza, you don’t want too much cheese or sauce or dough or even toppings. You want harmony and balance. What would happen if you got too much sauce yet you only have a few toppings? It would be soggy. Nothing and no one to soak it up and solve the problem.
Poetry is one of the greatest deceivers of all when it comes to simplicity. It is often the beauty of poetry to be simple. With a few seemingly simple words a good poet can alight your soul with fire or make your heart cry; just like a kiss, it looks simple on the surface, but underneath is a concoction of whirling emotions. Never accuse something of being simple. After all, it is often the simplest ideas in life that spur the greatest moments.