There were approximately seventy pieces of disassembled Christmas tree in front of us, and my roommate and I had no idea where to start.
"Okay," said The Roommate. "I think this must be the tree stand..." She tossed me a pile of scrap metal and some screws. "And these pieces are color coded, right? All these colored tape...no, that's not right..."
It took approximately fifteen minutes before we were cussing out the plastic bits of branches, trying to snap the fake tree trunk, and generally arguing about who had gotten us into this mess.
"Why couldn't we have just gone to the tree lot and donated $30 to the boy scouts like normal people? Why did we have to inherit this ancient ghetto Christmas tree from your boss?"
"SHUT UP. He was so excited, you don't even know! I had to! How am I going to tell him that his stupid Christmas tree is defective?"
"Let's burn it. Can we burn it? Please?"
Finally we both sat on the floor of our apartment, staring at the discarded tree in complete silence.
"Okay," I said. "The way I see it, we have two options. We can fight with this tree until two in the morning, or we can go to Wal-Mart and buy a $15 tree with built-in lights that'll take us two minutes to put up, and then we'll drink cider and watch A Christmas Carol."
Needless to say, we decided on Option Two.
HOW THIS STORY APPLIES TO YOU, DEAR WRITER
So you've got your box of plot devices sitting in front of you. There are roughly seventy themes, characters, and subplots in that box, and somehow you have to find a way to fit them all into your story. You spend months, maybe even years, wrestling with all those screws and heaps of scrap metal, only to find yourself exhausted and discouraged in the end.
But you have another option.
You can simplify. You can buy that $15 plot, with easy-to-assemble themes, characters you relate to, settings you know from personal experience.
Because, dear writer, simple does not necessarily mean not as good.
When The Roommate and I finished decorating our $15 Christmas tree, it looked pretty dang good. Sure, it was simple - a Charlie Brown tree - but it sparkled with lights and snowflake ornaments and it brightened the room with the feeling of the holiday. Maybe the seventy-piece monstrosity would have been more impressive...but then again, maybe not. Sometimes more isn't better. Sometimes more is just...more.
So if you want to gather up those dozens of subplots and themes and organize them into a brilliant, complicated story, go for it. But don't count out the simple boy meets girl formula just because it's less complex. Your job is to write a good story, no matter how many pieces in your box of plot devices.