Complex, Not Complicated

Read this tip to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Screenwriting Basics and other Screenplay topics.

Complex, Not Complicated

I recently read a script by a novice writer that was more like five different movies. Each of the five characters had a complicated story with enough drama to rival Jerry Springer. Keeping track of a single storyline was hard, never mind weaving them together. It was impossible to care for the characters because we didn't have time to follow any of them through a character arc. As a result, the they remained two-dimensional cardboard figures.

In an effort to give their stories depth, many writers confuse complicated plot lines for complexity. They are not the same. When talking about plots and characters, complicated means confusing. Complex means intricate and interesting.

Action is not story. Events are not story. We don't have story until we have a determined character with a goal who faces mounting obstacles along the way to achieving that goal.

If your hero's goal is to win the state championship, that's enough. Stay with that and find events that act as obstacles toward that goal. Don't have him also trying to solve a murder, save his girlfriend from drugs, and help his best friend launch a home-made rocket ship. Keep it clean and simple. Pick a single, central conflict.

Instead, add complexity through subplots, subtext, and the kinds of obstacles you give your hero. Choose character traits that create inner conflict. Give him a flaw that makes us worry he won't achieve his goal. Escalate the conflict in unique and interesting ways. Set up and pay off events logically and organically. Even an accident in your screenplay shouldn't be "accidental." If it doesn't launch or sustain the story, then it's coming out of the blue, and it doesn't belong in your script.

Throwing in a bunch of complications is simply confusing. Do your story a favor and keep it lean.



Nobody has commented on this tip yet. Be the first.


URL: (optional)


Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Screenplay Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Alexis Niki
Buy My Book