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O Christmas Tree...


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, 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.


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.
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  1. Oof. This hits really close to home for me right now! Thanks for using the metaphor to soften the blow a bit. :)

    I stripped two subplots and three major characters from my novel and it STILL seems very kitchen-sink-y. My plan for the next few months is to figure out if I can strip down any more, or if I just need to toss it and start with something more basic.

  2. <3333 I love this. And you. And Charlie Brown, however depressing he is :D

  3. This hits home for me in a wonderful way. I stood in Borders just today and thought "Wow, look at all these books. Does the world need another girl-meets-boy story?"

    The answer - maybe not the world. But, yeah, a lot of people do. Thanks for that.

  4. Too awesome!
    My Charlie Brown Christmas tree took me about 30 seconds to assemble hehe. I mean, I had to screw the tree into the wooden cross-sections. It was pretty challenging... :)

  5. You make a very good point! So many of the books I've loved have that girl-meets-boy story and they are still unique and wonderful. There's nothing wrong with using a tried and true formula, so long as you make it your own.

  6. Ah, Christmas trees. Every year me and my family go out to a tree farm and cut down our own tree. Then we go on the sleigh ride, pet teeny kittens and drink hot chocolate and eat hotdogs for lunch. :)


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Item Reviewed: O Christmas Tree... Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anonymous