Tuesday, 17 August 2010

There's Something to be Said for Simplicity

Forgive the alliteration. :)
Recently I bought a certain awesome album on itunes, and it's amazing. I love it. It's fantastical. I have spent about a bajillion hours dancing around (which is mainly jumping in circles because that's more fun than dancing) to this music. The sad songs make me cry, the happy songs inspire me to jig (it's a celtic CD) and the in-between songs make me sit contemplatively and scratch an imaginary beard. It's pretty awesome.
This one song.
You know this song. I know this song. Everybody and their luckdragon knows this song.
Amazing Grace.
What? you ask. Amazing Grace is a beautiful song! Why do you not like it?

(Yes, you are so cool that your questions are italicized.)

But I know Amazing Grace is beautiful. So why is it that everyone tries to sing it with a full choir and 60 piece orchestra, multiple key changes, and enough trills to make my ears shatter? Why are these artists with beautiful voices trying to one-up each other?

Amazing Grace is a beautiful song. Amazing Grace is a song that has room for embellishments. When those embellishments are pushed to the max, Amazing Grace is NOT a beautiful song. It's an earsore.


It makes me wonder - when does this apply to writing? When do we need to simplify, when do we need to embellish? For example, I'll pick on my favorite genre: fantasy. Fantasy authors try so hard, every author tries to out-Tolkien Tolkien.

You've seen it, the book about a young farmboy who oh yeah happens to be the long lost king and no one likes him at first but he demands their respect after a series of painful episodes and don't forget the dragons they're awesome and armies OH magical armies but look there's another badguy we didn't know about and the person we thought was the REAL bad guy is only an underling and... *deep breath* our farmboy grows into a devilishly handsome king but has to save the princess of a neighboring land and OH LOOK she's an elf and can see the future but not about this ONE PARTICULAR BATTLE because it's hidden from her for no reason and they need to ride their majestic white horses to a wizard on a mountain to find out why but he says first they need to pay him with a magical lion skin but magical lions died out years ago, the only one still alive lives across the world but OMG how can they kill the LAST LION without feeling awful and ....
Yeah, it gets crazy.

So maybe things don't need to be so epic. Or at least not so epic in one book (save it for the sequels!) I'm a big supporter of thinking big, but think big in the actual plot, not all the 'cool details'. Some are good - some are great - but too many will cause unnecesarry pain and excessive wincing.

What are some 'embellishments' that you can't stand in novels? A really mean popular girl when the book has almost nothing to do with popularity? A sudden explosion that's totally unnecessary? A mysterious stranger who is never explained?



1 comment:

Mina Carlisle said...

Fantasy writers do tend to embellish way too much. I used to read this one series where each book got significantly longer until the average book was 1000+ pages. It got to the point where the author used so many unnecessary details that I had a theory going that if he cut down on the details, the book wouldn't be nearly as long.

Details, for me, when they go too in-depth and don't let the reader use their own imaginations are my Amazing Grace overdone in writing.