Writing: Turning off to enjoy the plot

One of the hardest parts of being a writer – at least in my opinion – is turning it off. I love movies which actually can surprise me. It’s a rare plot twist that I don’t catch – even on the first pass of a movie. It’s why Unbreakable has a special place in my heart. It was the first MKS film I ever saw and that twist! Oh that twist actually got me! (I was also still a teen and just getting into words like “plot” and “twist” in writing).

I’ve had to learn to try to turn off the plot-planner when I’m reading books or watching movies. More than one book has disgusted me because I figured it out and there wasn’t anything left to keep me reading. Some books are just a fun-enough-romp-through-adventure that I don’t care if I know what’s coming. In some ways I want to know what’s coming! Seeing how this writer has this character handle this plot keeps me involved.

It’s harder with movies. They are so short and fast-paced that there often isn’t enough character development (especially with multi-character casts) to draw me in enough to overcome the predictable plots. I don’t want to say movies are predictable simply because I’m a writer. I am saying that being a writer has made it harder for movies to surprise me, my brain is going “I would have added that comment as foreshadowing” or “That poster seems out of place, I wonder why they picked it to frame the protagonist like that.”

So I have some coping mechanisms:

  1. Turn off and just enjoy the “experience” of loud noises and big booms (action movies) – which means the dumber the better
  2. Pick and character and flesh them out in my own head (and pray the script doesn’t try to throw on “development” in the last 1/3 of the movie)
  3. Turn my inner editor on and pick apart the dialog, directing, camerawork, etc.

If I hit number 3… I am usually unhappy I went to a movie theater for it. I’ve basically limited the movie theater for the “experience” – or to encourage Hollywood to make more movies like the one I’m watching.