Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Complexities of Complicated Complicatedness

How simple do complicated things need to be? I suppose I'm talking mainly about stories here. My general rule is to keep things simple.

(I know the famous epigram is to 'Keep It Simple, Stupid' but I've cut the 'Stupid'. I've simplified. See that?) I think most complicated stories can be streamlined, and improved by that. What you leave behind is more exposed, and usually more exciting or more interesting for it.

Today I watched Mildred Pierce, an old, old movie. It's pretty good. Joan Crawford won an Oscar for her role and it's directed by Michael Curtiz, who directed Casablanca, so he obviously knew what he was doing. It's not amazing, but it is pretty good.

The thing is, when I started thinking about it, I realised how complicated the story is. It was one of those films that makes me think the novel it's adapted from must make a lot more sense. (Sleeping with the Enemy was another one of those that comes to mind.)

In Mildred Pierce, some very complex story shenanigans had been condensed into very little time - condensed but not necessarily simplified. And I think that's where the film fell down. I just didn't believe in some of the characters' reactions. The two obvious solutions would have been to allow more time to deal with the emotional responses of each character, (which would have made teh film ten hours long) or to simplify the story.

Maybe that wouldn't have made it any better. I actually liked the story a lot - I jus didn't believe it. And actually, where I did believe it, I was able to predict it about three steps in advance.

So I'm keeping all of these thoughts in mind while I plot out Jimmy Coates: 8.

My story for this one is very, very simple at heart. There's one important thing that lots of people are out to get. Jimmy Coates is one of those people. He has to stop the others getting to this thing first.

But when the story is so simple, it's actually quite tricky to handle believable and exciting complications. So I have a simple story that needs delicate complicating, whereas Mildred Pierce was a story that clearly started off very complicated and they tried to rush the complications, instead of simplifying the story.

Who knows - maybe they did simplify the story. I haven't read the novel. Anybody out there read the novel? I'd be very surprised.

OK, I've just read back what I've typed and it makes no sense whatsoever.

Abd it's too complicated.

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