Pick any high-profile, mainstream popcorn summer movie from the past 10-15 years, and explain, in as few sentences as possible, how the story unfolds.
This doesn’t mean provide a logline; this is about having a plot that’s easy to understand.
Okay. Pencils down.
There’s been a disturbing trend of overstuffing a story and bombarding the audience with just too much information. It’s gotten to the point that a lot of the time, the details we need to know get lost in big expositional info-dumps, which makes us struggle to follow along, or at least keep up.
Who hasn’t had a lot of questions about the movie they just watched, but those questions are more along the lines of “What happened?” You want somebody to want to watch your story again because they want to relive the great time they had the first time around, not because they seek answers.
I could list several recent major releases that had too many elements which simply made it less of an experience to watch them. Sometimes the details made no sense, or the explanations behind them weren’t adequate enough. If I have to go back and think about something from earlier on, then everything that came after that doesn’t have my full attention, which makes me not enjoy it as much.
Is it really too much to ask that a story be kept relatively simple to understand? This doesn’t mean to dumb things down. It is possible to write a smart story with simple details. One of the many reasons certain older films still hold up is because they are smartly-written stories told in a simple, straightforward manner.
THIS is what has to happen, and THIS is how we get there. Of course you’re going to throw in complications, but that doesn’t mean you make it overly complicated.
It’s very tempting to want to show off your writing skills and keep adding stuff into your story, but that usually results in just too much going on.
There’s a big difference between throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks and carefully plotting out what happens.
Keep things simple when telling us what we need to know, and leave it at that.