Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Voltaire

Happy Tax Day! I hope a refund is on its way to you. If Tax Day doesn’t do it for you, April 15 also marks the day that Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson. Players can wear his #42 and every team sets aside time for a ceremony.

Onward to writing -- Yesterday I briefed you on some of what I had learned about the French philosopher, Voltaire. Let us now return to his most famous work, CANDIDE.

I find CANDIDE a very simply stated, straightforward, short satire that avoids the long drawn out opinions that infest other 18th century works. I’m not yet completely through it, but I will go ahead and say that CANDIDE’s timelessness likely rests on the fact that Voltaire conveys his political and religious criticisms through a book that mostly reads like a child’s fable.

Stated another way, Voltaire knows what he wants to say and says it in the simplest terms. Doing so isn’t an accident. Voltaire had a fine education and knew Latin, Spanish, and English as well as his native French. I’m sure he could have impressed us by stating his complex philosophies in equally sophisticated terminology and plot.

So, as I ask myself what I can learn from Voltaire, one of the ‘authorly’ lessons I’ll take away is another example of KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. Oh, and be intentional about it. Sometimes the best and most beautiful things are those whose masters left them simply crafted. Incidentally, by simple, I mean simple in appearance to the reader, seamless if you will. Thus, even if my story contains hidden meaning and plot twists and complex characters, I must take the extra effort to think through the ‘simplest’ way to present these elements within my story.

Do you agree? I do think there is an equally enticing other side of writing, whose extended complexities create its attractiveness, but we’ll blog on that in a later post. Unlike taxes, I can put that off to another day. ;-)

1 comment:

  1. A friend of mine who is an illustrator said one of his art profs in college said if there is a shortcut, take it. If there is an easier way, use that. It's all about keeping it externally simple. But getting there, man, that is the trick.