Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Tuesday, 28 September 2004

Early this morning I read "Hanwell in Hell" by Zadie Smith, in the September 27th New Yorker. Good story. It stuck with me. I was still thinking of it this evening. There's not a lot of plot to it, just characters and some events, but it was powerful.

It made me think of a piece of advice that I got at a workshop on screenwriting: Tell simple stories about complex characters. I just now googled for those two phrases, and see that a lot of web pages on writing have exactly the same advice.

It's something I need to work on. I spent years working on plot, because some of my first stories were inadequate in the plot area. But from focusing too much on that, now most of my short stories have too much plot. They have complex plots that I can barely squeeze into a short story; that when I do, leave the reader not quite sure what happened. I need to pare down the plot.

For characters my problem is not exactly that they're inadequately complex (although all but the main characters probably are). It's that they're inadequately diverse--too similar to each other, both in each story and from story to story.

This isn't a new revelation, of course, but I think I get better each time I recognize this problem in a new way.

Got some work done at the office and felt productive. After several days of running or bicycling, took a rest day today and feel great. Watched "Veronica Mars," which was quite good (meaning that it'll probably be canceled right away).

Learned that our Fitness Center membership (which is a perk from work) may be going away, so I want to use it while I still can. Since I need to be at my desk for an 8:00 meeting tomorrow, I need to get to bed now if I'm going to get up early enough to squeeze in some lifting.


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