Double-Edged Swords

27 Aug

Life comes with double-edged swords.

A child prodigy is talented beyond his/her years, but the road to performance might mean a loss of playtime or peer socialization because of the rigorous studies necessary. A demanding profession might mean missing family dinners, school performances & teacher conferences, and just “time” spent parenting.

Since I’ve started writing, I’ve loved the knowledge gained from studying the craft. I’ve learned about goal, motivation, & conflict, character development, description, POV, well, you get the picture. Of course, learning and applying to a satisfactory end is another story. 😉 It’s a process that I continue to perfect.

The writer’s double-edge sword often means reading books or watching movies and studying them even if you try to let yourself go and just enjoy the experience. Before I began writing, perhaps I didn’t like the same amount of books or movies, but couldn’t articulate the reasons. I don’t know.

I do know what doesn’t work for me is because of what I’ve learned.

This summer, a writer friend and I went to a movie that had a lot of pre-release hype. We had history with the subject and couldn’t wait to be swept into that world again. The lights dimmed and the movie began. When the lights lifted, we looked at each other, silent for a moment. Then, one of us (I can’t remember which) said, “I didn’t like it.” The other, “Me, either.”

We then critiqued the movie and decided that the main reason was that it started in the wrong place. The director spent too much time on backstory that could have been threaded in later or even left out. There were other points, but this very slow start seemed to be the main flaw. Would we have realized that had we not been writers? Again, I don’t know.

We then went to another movie taken from a bestselling novel. It hadn’t gotten very good reviews but we both liked the premise. The lights dimmed. The lights lifted.

“I loved it.”

“Me, too!”

We discussed the hero’s ordinary world, the call to adventure, the refusal of the call, and on through the Hero’s Journey. I got almost as much enjoyment over discussing the fine points as watching the movie itself. I couldn’t have experienced that if I wasn’t a writer. It was a wonderful night.

Turning to books, I also know that I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to because of what I know about craft. That saddens me. But, I am more thankful when I find a great book because of what I’ve learned.

A double-edged sword.

Have you found your opinions on books and movies have changed since you began writing? What other double-edged swords have you found when applied to writing?



15 responses to “Double-Edged Swords

  1. ramblingsfromtheleft

    August 27, 2012 at 6:26 AM

    Janis, while it took me a lifetime to finally “get to” the writing phase of story telling, the stories have been stuffed into my brain since childhood. The double-edged sword of seeing so much and never being able to trap what I saw on a page. The nightmare of perfect pitch when I went to a concert. Living with an artist, a linguist and a child prodigy, my normal neurotic life seemed a dull edge more than a double edge. To live with a nut who taught me to pick up the cello in the background music … to see the production mistakes when a pen was in a pocket in one sceen and misteriously vanished in the next … although it was the same room, the same conversation … the hair changed, the table had a cup that wasn’t there a moment ago.

    My double edge was in learning from so early on to spot all the glitches in movies or songs and to read every book between the lines … to see every photograph beyond the frame. It has been a challenge … but in the end … a true gift. Enjoy that you can now see and hear … read and capture so much more of what is good or NOT in what you read. Also, good movies are a great way to learn plot structure and dialogue :):)

    • Janis McCurry

      August 27, 2012 at 7:21 AM

      Let us all swashbuckle our way through life.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    August 27, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    Very insightful post, Janis. I’m with Florence on this – seeing, hearing, assessing the ‘behind’ rather than simply what is obvious IS a gift. It does mean, however, that you can’t just wallow in a book or movie. With knowledge comes that darn obligation to apply it. I’m glad of it, but there’s a reason ‘ignorance is bliss’ is my favorite cliche. 😉

  3. Janis McCurry

    August 27, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    Hah. And that’s why cliches work! They are true. And sometimes, I miss the wallowing, but overall like that I’ve learned to discern.

  4. Peggy Staggs

    August 27, 2012 at 7:37 AM

    I enjoy being able to sort out what’s wrong or right with a movie, book, or TV show. I’ve enjoyed the learning experience and the process. I love being surprised with a great twist, a surprise ending, or the wonderfully complex puzzle. And now I can untangle the process and I like that…a lot.

  5. Janis McCurry

    August 27, 2012 at 8:01 AM

    Good for you. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

  6. Amberly Smith

    August 27, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Summer movies I’ve enjoyed from a story teller stand point, Avengers, Joss was able to get back story and character development in for each character, impressive with such a large cast. Also loved Hunger Games for the hero’s journey.

  7. Janis McCurry

    August 27, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    Of course, you know I’m lovin’ on our Joss. Hunger Games was an excellent Hero’s Journey primer. Thanks, Amberly.

  8. ValRoberts

    August 27, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    You know what really chaps my cheeks, though? When the spousal unit sees plot bunnies before I do! He’s not even a writer and he can pick apart an entire movie plot from the trailer.

    I’m going to say I taught him well and then stick to that story. 🙂

  9. Janis McCurry

    August 27, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    I could ask you what cheeks of your’s were chapped, but we are a family blog. 😉 Thanks, Val.

  10. maryvine

    August 27, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    I don’t want to be able to guess the ending-but be happily surprised. But, I kinda kill this by working hard to figure out the ending in advance. I also spot changes in the scenery at times, too. Because of my job, I constantly have an ear for speech impediments or words that don’t sound quite right on tv or real life, and my husband has to tell me repeatedly, that I’m not a work 🙂 I sound like I’m a lot of fun, don’t I?

  11. Janis

    August 27, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Hey, it happens! Double-edged sword at work.

  12. Clarissa Southwick

    August 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Great post, Janis. I do find that I’m more critical about books than I used to be, but I’m not sure it’s because I’m a writer. It might be that I just that I have less free time and I’m not willing to squander it on a book I’m not enjoying.

  13. Janis McCurry

    August 28, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    Good point. I’m guessing it might be a little of both.

  14. Lynn Mapp

    September 5, 2012 at 10:13 PM

    Oh Janis. There are some movies I don’t even go to watch. I am horrible. I don’t know if I’ve always been this way. I hate plot holes! Tie up the lose ends. If you introduced it as a conflict, resolve it.


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