Friday, February 23, 2007

Critiquing More Than Just Books

Dan and I went to see a play tonight and I was struck by how my work on writing technique has affected my ability to enjoy a performance. I kept noticing things like:

• Too much backstory.
• Too much repetition of thoughts and ideas. Make the point and move on, don't keep returning to it over and over!
• Lots of clever wordplay that exists only to be clever and doesn’t advance the plot.
• Not enough action—most of the first act took place on a bus, with everyone just sitting and talking.
• Little subplots that went nowhere and were a distraction. Why should we care if one of the characters was once a fifteen year-old harlot, if it has no bearing on the theme or plot?

In sum, I was disappointed in the play, although not by the performances, which were fantastic.

As a writer, I expect my enjoyment of books to be affected by critquing other writers' style and technique. But I hadn’t thought that it would affect how I react to plays and performances as well.

I wonder if other writers experience the same thing?


Anonymous said...

Yep! Though I've also written screenplays and am interested in filmmaking, and I've been an editor--after that experience, reading in particular became exceedingly frustrating because the smallest typo would pull me out of a work.

I think being a writer really does spoil reading for you (impersonal). And maybe if you're writing fiction, which is normally storytelling, it just spoils any kind of storytelling, as you've described, bunnygirl. I've found that the less expectations I have beforehand for a particular book/film/whatever, the more enjoyable it winds up being. So before I'm gonna experience something new, I sort of chant inside myself, "Clear your mind, forget you're a writer."

Anonymous said...

Hiya, bunnygirl! Being a writer affects my enjoyment of all kinds of fiction, whether other novels, TV, movies, plays -- any medium which involves storycraft is fair game. And like you, I notice dangling subplots, too much backstory, too much repetition, too much pointless jabber that doesn't do anything for the story, etc.

Being a writer makes my bar for suspension of disbelief a lot higher. As a writer, I often think, "Oh, that's silly... why was that movie, book, etc. written like that? That just doesn't work..." whereas if I focus on a story with my reader's mind alone I am more likely to go along for the ride.

Alice Audrey said...

I experience it to a degree, but many years ago I made a concerted effort to find ways to enjoy books and other media in spite of my burgeoning critical tenancies. Now I tend to note things like that a lot more than the people around me, but still manage to enjoy the parts that are enjoyable.