marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

too clever, too neat, too pat

Heading off into the Valley Full of Clouds, as Terry Pratchett put it, and trying to reach the next point of the story. . . the chief thing is to "devise incidents" as W. Somerset Maugham put it, getting the character into one pickle, and then getting him out again only to throw him into a worse one.

Then, devising them is only half the trick.  Then you've got to inspect them and make sure they really work.

Is this escape from that problem good enough?  Was it hard enough?  The difficulty of the problem will be retroactively determined by the difficulty of the solution.  A solution that's too clever by half will undermine the drama of it.  Maybe you're writing comedy and want that -- or perhaps you're just leavening it with comic relief.  The classic example of such a solution is "Indiana Jones remembers that he has a gun."  The seriousness of the movie was only leavened by that moment, but there weren't many of them.  And note, it wasn't the climax.  "Remember you have a gun" would turn any story into a farce as a climatic scene.

"Life is a tragedy to those of us who feel and a comedy to those of us who think" -- and a clever, neat, pat solution shifts a story sharply toward the comedy by shifting it toward thinking.  Drama needs more than is felt, so while it can be smart, it can't be too smart.  Or, at least, we can't focus on how smart it is.  No matter how clever the plan to foil the attack of the golem, if the character has to work and sweat at it, and there's always the peril that he would fail however clever it was, if he did not strain hard enough to get the parts in place.

Then, you have to keep the tension rising.  First one wolf, then another wolf, then a third wolf -- no, each wolf has to be nastier than the wolf before.  Or more of them, to make it more dangerous and to keep the readers awake. . . .

Tags: idea development, plot twist, story structure

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