Less is Less: the Unsophisticated Plot

Being a bad (maybe lazy) cook, I was tempted to pick up one of those cookbooks that contains recipes that require no more than three or four key ingredients to throw together a “meal”. Two slices of whole wheat bread, a piece of honey cured ham, and a slice of Swiss cheese. Voilà! Lunch!

Less preparation time equals less work. But it also gives you a product that is, sorry to say, less interesting to eat. Now, if we just squirt a little mustard onto that sandwich or add a pickle, maybe even a few slices of turkey, we instantly alter the taste of our lunch—and hopefully improve it.

The lesson is a great idea—like an ingredient—doesn’t make a meal. Your novel needs to have more than one idea to make it tasty. Improve its flavor by adding other ingredients into it.

If it’s a romance, add a hint of mystery. If it’s a mystery, add some drama. If it’s nonfiction, add a little light comedy. Obviously, TOO much of even a good thing can be bad. Imagine a chocolate-chip cookie recipe that calls for ten cups of sugar and you get the idea.

A chocolate-chip recipe is a judicious blending of several ingredients, including the all-important sugar. Flour, baking soda, salt, an egg, vanilla extract, butter, and those savory chocolate pieces that give the cookie its name. If any one of these ingredients were left out of the mix, you’d know it in a single bite, even if you couldn’t put your finger on exactly what was missing.

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