So the first thing you have to do is keep it simple…right. So easy to say and relatively easy to write, easy to remember (in fact you’ve probably heard it so many times before it’s difficult to forget), but it can be so damned hard to do! Why? Why do we seem to have a natural tendency to over complicate things, making things harder for ourselves and for each other? Is it really a simple case of it being a basic, inescapable fact of life? Our natural propensity to make things difficult is exactly that, natural. It’s just the way we are.
I was talking to my son last night and he said he would probably never vote because, even if he did, he wouldn’t get what he wanted, which is for everyone to stay calm. He has a point and arguably some insight too.
However, before you start thinking: what’s happened to Ola? Has he just stepped off the astral plane having been holed up on some kind of yogic retreat for the past week? Let me reassure you, I haven’t. I’m just sharing some thoughts and thinking out loud – as this is the case when I’m running a writing course these days. I like to bandy around ideas and try out some new approaches, different ways in and interesting ways out.
This week’s challenge is the notion of progressive complications. It may be all well and good for us to talk in terms of simplicity and serenity when we’re out there on the road, making our way along the highways, pathways and dark alleyways of life (wherever your Sat Nav may take you) – playing it and keeping it really cool in actual reality – but when it comes to drama, well, no. That’s when things have to get messy, complex, difficult and fraught.
So as I was saying, that’s this week’s challenge, for next week in fact. I’m going to deliver a playwriting workshop in London on progressive complications in narrative, which is great and I’m really looking forward to it, though I haven’t quite worked out exactly what I’m going to do yet. Hence thinking\writing out loud right now. However, how hard can it be? This is part of the challenge actually. I think the ‘Keep it Simple’ mantra really has become a basic way of my life – though there are some who may maintain I’ve taken the notion of simplicity more to my head than to my heart. No matter.
So how do you make things progressively complicated in your stories? And why….or more to the point, why not? Or to an even finer point: how do you complicate matters believably and with credibility? That’s what I’ll be exploring with the participants in my workshop – through a combination of exercises, discussion, writing, and games – but most of all just by having good old fashioned plain simple fun – we’ll be looking at making things difficult for our characters and trying to make that simpler and easy to do. It shouldn’t be hard but it is definitely harder than you might think…at least it is at the moment.
Hopefully we’ll be laughing, smiling and checking our pulse rates are maintaining a steady 60 – 100 beats per minute for the duration of the entire workshop, while the action on the page gets increasingly twisted and turned upside down and inside out as the pressure mounts and the characters are taken to breaking point and to unbelievable – and yet dramatically believable – levels of complexity, intensity, anxiety and ferocity. All in the aid of a damned good story.
So stay calm, keep it simple and let the pressure build while the creativity flows.