I read a story over at Circle Critique, and it was brilliant. The problem was that it went over my head completely so I didn’t even understand it till I read the other critiques. It seemed like half the people got it, and the other half was confused as hell. I think I’m better at writing than I am interpreting literature or any other stories, but that’s a topic for another day. But it started me thinking a bit more on the subject. Can a story be too complex?
When I was in fanfiction there were 5 stories that I loved out of 30,000. I read them several times and may go back and read them even though I left the fandom. Two of these stories were formulaic, but the prose was gorgeous. Overall, they were amazing stories. These two stories revolved around time travel, a very popular type of story in my fandom. The other three had gorgeous prose but the stories were either abstract or exploring new territory. They were thought provoking masterpieces, and they were also unpopular. I was really confused. My story was actually pretty popular, but it was formulaic. These writers were much better than me, so why weren’t they popular? To be honest it boggled my mind at the time. I eventually realized these stories were too complex and/or too different for most people to enjoy.
And I talked to a few friends about it and we realized that if your story is too complex, it’s less popular because you are alienating the people that don’t understand. If you look at published fiction you’ll see that Twilight has more popularity than The Sound and the Fury, once of Faulkner’s masterpieces. I like Faulkner, love his style, but I could not grasp the essence of that story because it was confusing as hell. It shifted between past and present without telling you and employed the stream of consciousness style. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I didn’t understand it. I imagine it’s an amazing experience for those that get it. I might try again sometime in the future.
Have any of you passed on a story or other book because it was too complicated?