Writer Who Part III: Laziness of Simplicity

There is something about reading that I’m trying to get a grasp on. There is something about the characters themselves that I find romantic, no matter what the situation is. 

It has taken me a long time to figure it out, but I think I have it. 

I think I now know why I love reading about characters so terribly much. The simplicity, the adventures, the movement, the learning – they have no free will.

I think I am actually envious of fictional characters because of this. 

That’s not to say that I don’t want free will, but characters in books don’t have to tell their arm to lift, to have the muscles react to their brain’s whim. It’s done for them. “She walked into the kitchen and poured her coffee,” sounds so much simpler than the actual act of it, of actually placing each foot in front of the other, adjusting the weight distribution between the two, using the core muscles to keep the body straight, centered and balanced, pulling the cup from the shelf and worrying that the temperature of the mug will cool the coffee too quickly, wondering if the cream should be added before or after the coffee is poured, lifting the coffeepot and considering if it’s too heavy for the left arm that suffers from tendonitis in the shoulder. 

Well, the character could go through all that, but the reader doesn’t want to read each and every movement like that. If that were the way novels were written, they would be a minimum of a thousand pages each! 

It’s just simplicity – She cradled the baby, who dribbled contently and went to sleep. He made a stew from the rabbit he caught. They went to the store for flowers before arriving at the party. It’s all very simple. 

I think sometimes the details of each movement of everyday living intimidates me, and if I focus too much on it, can cause anxiety. I think it’s part of the cause of my laziness. It used to be, that I could convince myself that a task isn’t as difficult as I’m making it out to be, and I could have it done in two minutes, which is less time than my internal argument of I-don’t-want-to-do-the-dishes. Now my argument wins, most of the time. And it wins because of the details involved – when I wash the dishes, the cutlery holder in the drying rack isn’t deep enough, and my stirring spoons always fall out and I have to wash them again – the floor is cold on my feet – The sponge isn’t spongy enough – There are more dishes than the drying rack can handle (even the only dishes there are from cooking the meal) – I need to take the compost out so I can scrap the dishes – and so on. All this combined effort overwhelms me. 

(Keep in mind, the dishes is an example. I actually have a pretty sweet set-up where my boyfriend is on perma-dish-duty, while I’m on perma-grocery-and-cooking-duty. Win for me!)

The writer decides the fate of the character, and generally graciously skips over the details of how things get done, the muscle movements, the steps, the individual wipes on the counter, or motions of the tooth brush. Things are simply done. 

Sometimes I wish that things were simply done for me as well. I got up and found myself downstairs with coffee in my hand. No waiting for the kettle to boil, wondering how much of this new instant coffee I should put in my cup? In fact – which cup should I use???

The ironic thing is, if any one tells me how to have my day, I get pretty stubborn and tell them where they can stick it. You know, because I’m classy like that. 

 

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4 thoughts on “Writer Who Part III: Laziness of Simplicity

  1. This has always been a struggle of mine. Especially in movement. I linger in too much detail on routine movements because I want to draw it down to as small of steps as possible. Lately, though, I’ve been struggling with the opposite. I’ve found that, during my dialogue, I can’t seem to come up with the simple actions that people do while speaking to each other. I force them to do all sorts of irregular things while talking because… well, people do things while they talk but I can’t seem to boil down what exactly they do!

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    • I think you should create characters that also moonlight as circus performers, so you can say “I highly disagree!” Billy said, juggling the salad bowl, coffee cup and salt shaker. “How can you disagree! This is about saving a life!” Betty responded, cartwheeling to the table. 🙂
      I know how you feel though. I personally enjoy reading a long string of dialog, with the reminder of who’s speaking from time to time. But more often than not, when I’m reading, if it’s simple “so and so replied/said/scoffed/whatever”, I”ll not read the detail of how they said it, what they were doing when they said it. I’m sure I miss out on it, but more often than not, I’m wrapped up in the conversation proper.

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      • You joke, but that’s about what I do! Even stranger things than juggling salt. I literally have a scene where, while holding conversation, a character creates a robot spider? Why is that necessary? I also use like a million adverbs on my dialogue tags.

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      • Your character sounds kind of badass if they’re creating robot spiders 🙂
        I think that’s the necessity, giving depth of the badassery!
        My biggest problem is finding that less is more. I can do that pretty well these days. However, sometimes I go a bit overboard and forget that I have to at least put SOMETHING. ha ha!

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