Wednesday, April 01, 2015

An Unexpected Gift

Even before I became a writer, I was a big-time reader. Fiction, nonfiction, mystery, thriller, historical. You know the drill. I pretty much still am, though I have less time to read these days.

When I do get the chance to pick up a book, I notice things about stories that I never used to. How they're constructed. How the choice of a word makes a difference in how I feel as a reader. And, when I find a novel or short story particularly satisfying, I'll go back and reread parts or all of it, trying to figure out what makes it tick. Why I liked it so much. How the author managed to make me feel sad, happy, angry, etc. at a particular point.

The same goes for television shows or movies though, with them, it's less about the words used and more about the construction of the story. The other day, I watched an episode of a crime drama that involved the kidnapping of a baby. At the end, the child was found. The man who had him was driving a car along a road and the police gave chase. The writers could have just had the police stop the vehicle (after whatever is deemed the appropriate amount of chase time for television) but, instead, they added a further complication. The vehicle ended up in a lake, completely submerged. Don't worry, the baby was rescued after someone dove in, broke a window and grabbed the infant out of the backseat. I don't remember if the kidnapper was rescued. I'm not sure I cared.

I appreciated that plot twist. It reminded me that you can't ever make it too easy for your characters. Just when they seem to be reaching their goal, add a complication. In this case, the car going into the lake and the possibility the baby won't be rescued after all.

This change in mindset is similar to what happened to me when I studied Hebrew in college. When I'd leave class, I started looking at the world from right to left instead of left to right. Things looked just a bit different. And when I did some script supervising on student films I started noticing continuity errors in movies I saw that I would never have noticed before. Though those two abilities both faded away as soon as I stopped studying Hebrew and doing continuity for films.

Some people might consider it an annoyance. You've lost the ability to simply enjoy a story instead of analyzing it. For me, it’s a gift, giving me the opportunity to appreciate an author's work even more.

No comments: