Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Too Clever By Half
It's especially hard to manage in a story and painful to listen in an Audio Drama.
Too many writers- who are for all intents and purposes very intelligent beings- wield their intelligence like a sledge hammer when they should be dicing small vegetables of wisdom with a paring knife.
I'm pointing this out today because in the last month of listening to audio drama I find that there's been several audio shows that have overworked their cleverness. Here is a brief list of how smarts can get you smarting.
A. Language- Inappropriate use of four dollar words.
Some writers write very complex and ultimately deleterious dialog for their characters that comes across unrealistic and counter to the character's personality and background. I'm not suggesting a writer lowers their writing abilities. Rather I would recommend that writers spend some time in coffee shops listening to how people speak, and vary those styles based upon the elements they create for their characters.
B. Plots- Overwriting a plot can hurt you in two different ways- losing your plot in the mud and over-explaining your reveals.
The mud soaked plot sees the characters track so much in the story that everything sticks to them. There are a thousand unanswered riddles, side plots, and tangents that the writer has included to try to keep the listeners guessing. This only confuses them completely to the point of giving up.
A writer who over-explains their plot suffers the opposite. Let the listener put two and two together, or at least give them the opportunity to go the last 25% of the way. Hint the solution, or state it simply but do not spend a long time explaining anything that becomes instantly clear when it is revealed.
C. Superfluous Exposition- Stifle the inner professor.
This has been the most egregious of sins in the Two Clever by Half book of wrongs. Too many stories have what feels to be an adjunct to the plot. A character will state an archaic term, or a political representation, and then proceed (unnecessarily so) to explain the entire details to anyone else listening, including the audience. This stalls the plot and makes the story more didactic than enjoyable. Introduce terms if you like or words that people are not familiar with, but instead of lengthy explanations, take the time to illustrate what the word would mean through the natural actions of the play. Obviously some exposition is appropriate in a story, and helpful to the audience. Most is not.
Look for the traps in your writing and put away your hard won university degree with a major in history and a minor in politics. Assume folks would like the color of what you can add to a story, but assume they have a decent idea of what you're introducing. If not, let them look it up, rather than take the time teaching it to them.
You'll win more respect from not talking down to your listeners.