It needs to be 57 complex.
I think if you look at the contrast between those two scenarios, it's almost like movie versus a book. In a movie the adrenalin can be kept going with plenty of action and a minimum plot. In a novel a certain amount of complexity can be included to deliberately "mislead" the reader so they get that OMG moment further on. Also, the reader can know key information the MC doesn't. A more complex plot is good in a novel, but not for its own sake, only if it's well conceived.After some years of struggling with a lot of inspiration and total blanks when it comes to plots, I have started to wonder if an intricate plot is actually really needed to make a compelling story. When I look at classic Sword & Sorcery stories and many of my favorite movies, they have plots that are barely there. Unless it's an investigation story like Blade Runner, there barely is any kind of planning involved beyond the current scene, and there's no back and forth between heroes and villain trying to defeat the other with smart moves. Instead the heroes just keep pushing ahead and deal with things as they run into them. Or they chase after the antagonist and do the same.
That you can have fun stories with not much in the way of plot feels like great news for me. But unfortunately for me, I've never heard anything in the way of advice on how to make a story compelling without relying on dangling a mystery before the readers that the protagonists are trying to solve.
What's the difference between a great simple story and a mere string of scenes?
There's lots of interesting thoughts in the thread. I wouldn't really disagree with any of it. I do have my own thought on the subject of complexity.
Plot is the mechanical structure you hang your story on. Just like the frame of a house -- there are a million ways to decorate making it a home but the frame is all the same.
Plot can be as complicated as you need it to be to tell the story you want.
The key point of any story is conflict. You will not have a compelling story without it. I mean "conflict" in the technical, writing way, not in the war or argument way. Conflict can be internal or external. It can be the character coming to grips with something new. It can be a bad guy trying to thwart their progress. It can be a cave for somebody who is claustrophobic or a desire for a cupcake that is only sold at a store across town. Conflict is anything that motivates a character. It can be big or small. It can last a scene, or it can last for a full series.
I think the best books have conflicts with the highest stakes. The plot can be fairly thin and unimaginative, but if the conflict is good, meaning the characters have to be sympathetic, then the story is usually good. An example is Hunger Games. The plot and the world are fairly simple. But the conflicts are epic. And, I don't just mean the fight or be killed aspect. It's all the internal conflict about dealing with this death game, the idea of being killed by one of these other kids, the idea of something greater than oneself, the raw horror of being forced into something like this, and so on. Those conflicts make for a hugely compelling story even if the writing is a bit weak.
Of course, the world, magic systems, races, and characters can be immensely complex too. But that is not a guarantee of a good story. I think that there is a certain level of competence and experience one must achieve before being able to effectively write something that is truly complex. One gets there in stages. Malazan, The Book of the Fallen is probably the most complex thing I have ever read. It's part of the strength of the series. But, it's the characters and the conflicts that make it epic.
Yep.I just had a new insight: