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The danger of simplicity

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

The main reason I like teaching WOARO (want, obstacle, action, response, outcome) is its simplicity.

Everything I read about story previously had been overly complicated and rigid. Too many terms, too many plot points, and too many long lists to fill out about characters.

However, I worry that I sometimes take this simplicity too far.

Sometimes, my students have a hard time aligning what I teach with what they’ve learned before, and some like the complexity of other story forms.

I was reminded of this concern when I read The Simple Life of Humans by Adrian H. Raudaschl. Certainly, the article is considering the political and cultural weaponization of simplicity but on a teaching level, it can still be applicable.

As Raudaschl states, “Simplicity provides a cognitive anchor,” but he cautions that “reducing an idea to its soundbite is deceivingly seductive in its ease of understanding, and purposefully limits discussion parameters.” The other danger is that removing complexity, “only serves the interests of the person delivering it.”

Yes, using WOARO makes it easier for me to offer a quick solution to 99% of most story problems, but I’m never certain it accommodates every student’s viewpoint or learning style.

I think the lesson that can be learned from the article is by “enabling people’s autonomy.”

When we are teaching, we must acknowledge it and not reduce the problem we are solving to a platitude. Acknowledge the complexity, and indicate that the solution we are offering might be only one tool in a very full toolbox.

So when I teach WOARO, I must acknowledge that it isn’t the only method, but it is one of many. As well, if I keep myself open to the other approaches and viewpoints that students express, this will not only allow me to adapt, but it keep me open to new ideas.

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Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.