So many people tell you that keeping it simple is the best way to go. There’s even an anagram for it: “K.I.S.S” Keep It Simple Stupid. I’m sure they are right. It is best to simplify whenever possible. However, as a writer, simplicity is not always the way to go. Also, simplicity can actually be harder than it looks, like with children’s books. I can’t count how many folks have told me they should “write a children’s book” because it would be so much simpler/easier than a “real” novel. Right… There is nothing “simple” about writing a children’s book, or a short story, or a poem.
Is it possible as a writer to keep it simple? In my humble opinion, no. Not if I want the reader to read my novel with ease, with the desire to finish quickly because they can’t wait to see how it ends and because getting there is so much fun. If I wrote a “simple” story I don’t think I’d attain that goal for my reader, much less myself.
To lay clues and/or “red herrings” as is done in a mystery or thriller or make your characters more than interesting, there is no “simple way” to do this, unless of course you’re Nora Roberts, who whips out books like a magician does doves from a hat!
Below is an excerpt from The Seventh Man, an example of layering character, alluding to back-story, setting up for what comes later, and hopefully piquing your interest so you’ll want to read more, want to know these people and their stories.
His brain wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t stop thinking of the huge mistake he’d made and what it might cost him. Back in front of the store window he had touched her, skin to skin. He hated to make that sort of contact with anyone but had decided in an instant. Extraordinary danger required extraordinary action no matter what he hated.
In his head he kept repeating what he’d done as if playing an old scratched LP that wouldn’t stop skipping. He’d gripped her lower jaw, pulled her face to his; moved his hand to allow his mouth to meet hers. He hadn’t been gentle with her, had felt her flinch in pain as his mouth had touched hers. He remembered the feel of her as she’d squirmed beneath him. He took a deep breath and tried to relax, to rid his memory of her perfume. Was it perfume or her natural fragrance? Either way the light floral aroma still penetrated his nose as it had on the street. Her scent had crept inside him, had flowed deep into his mind along with the underlying acrid aroma of her fear. And then conflicting colors of black, pale yellow and red shadows had flashed across his vision; a sudden pain had stung his eyes as if in warning. He shut them now, for an instant, just as he’d done at the scene. When the cops had moved away he’d been locked into the woman, her breath, the foreign taste of her lips; the forgotten touch of a woman’s softness. The dreamlike desire to kiss her with complete abandon had almost overpowered him. Now, with that memory haunting him the flicker came again in chaotic colors and a throb in his head. And, just like on the street outside the store, the killer found he couldn’t breathe. He remembered not being able to breathe, and that he hadn’t been able to stop kissing the woman he’d taken, either.
Was this easy to read? Does it seem like a “simple” scene? I hope not!