Humans need to simplify. We listen closely to those who explain things easily because we assume they’ve figured it out. Sure, there are things in life that are that simple: You gotta eat, you gotta breathe, you gotta move. Clean up after yourself. Honor your commitments. Wash your hands before you eat.
But much of life isn’t so delineated. Our values can’t be color coded into Blue vs Red. Morality and ethics exist beyond religious labels.
The goal for a nonfiction writer is to simplify topics to make them readily understood. We adapt a point of view (often determined by whoever pays us to write it), then research, interview, analyze facts, consider differing opinions, write, strip away half of what we wrote, rewrite some more. Eventually, if we’ve done our job, we make that point so concisely readers will say “Aha! I get it!” And we’ll have taught them something new.
Fiction, like life, is complex. We still adapt a point of view. We research, eavesdrop, ponder, recall, write, strip away half of what we write, rewrite some more. But instead of making our point in two columns, we must layer in fears, longing, smells, tastes, sounds. We veil an essential truth with all the complexities that make us human. If we’ve done our jobs, our readers will say, “Ah. I get it.” They’ll clutch our books to their chests and sigh. And we’ll have made their word a richer, more complex place.