31 minutes ago
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
My hubby and I went to a free movie prescreening. It was described as an Alfred Hitchcock type of murder mystery and had a superb list of actors. I'm not going to divulge a title or too many details, because it's possible that they will fix some of the problems before it hits the big screen. IF it ever gets to the big screen. The plot was so awful I'm not sure they will let anyone ever see this film again.
I tried to keep an open mind, but as the film continued it got worse. Plot hole after plot hole emerged until it culminated in supreme badness. I can tell you the exact moment when the badness peaked. There was a scene where the con artists look at each other and ask, "Where's his cell phone?" Then they cut to a grave site where the phone is ringing. The entire theater (which was full, by the way) started laughing. It was as if all of the badness of the movie hit a level that was so high, we couldn't not laugh. Even the most polite audience member had to giggle at the outrageous plot. I call this the badness climax.
I felt really sorry for the actors. They tried their best, but the writing was so bad it was almost painful to watch them uttering nonsense. This film really pointed out for me how important it is not to have plot holes and not to ever talk down to your audience.
In the first ten minutes of the film, we learn the protagonist's secret. Yet, a detective who is interested in her (because she is so eccentric) pursues a clue to her past. Towards the end of the movie the detective discovers what this clue means. Unfortunately for the audience members, we already had the information. So lesson number one for us writers: if we have someone working on solving a clue, the solution needs to add something to the story. If it doesn't, we need to take the entire thread out.
There was a lot of redundancy in the movie as well. A couple mentions a cell phone, and then we hear the cell phone, and then we hear the cell phone again, and then there's a close-up of the cell phone. WE GET IT! The cell phone's in the grave! Lesson number two for us writers: trust our readers.
The plot just didn't work. I can't say too much without giving away what movie I'm referring to. Let's just say there was no reason that a murder needed to happen. It was possible to do the con in a much easier manner, many years before the movie occurs. Sometimes I'll get an idea for a scene or maybe a cool ending, but I can't get the rest of the story to work right. This movie felt like someone wanted to write a cool mystery, but didn't take the time to make it believable. One thing I learned during revisions of The Shaman Apprentice is that if I thought long enough I could find a solution to a problem. The one thing we can't be afraid of is confronting plot holes in our work.
There was one thing that I winced at because it was a large part of my first revision of The Shaman Apprentice. In the movie, there wasn't a definitive reason for the protagonist's main struggle. At times it pointed to one reason, and then at other times it pointed to another. There was great potential for character development, but it didn't work simply because there was too much confusion. Our protagonists need to have a focused motivation for what they want to achieve.
It's always easier to see problems in another's work than it is in our own. Still, we have to try to look realistically at our fiction--whether we're writing a murder mystery, a vampire romance, or a science fiction novel.