As a new author I’ve spent a lot of time learning from my fellow authors as I read their work, and I remain a movie nut. When readers note that my writing wants the reader to “see” the story, they are spot on. When I read or write a book, I “see” the story in my mind. I’m not convinced that I have a true photographic memory, because there’re too many times I’m frustrated due to stupid memory lapses, usually in social settings.
Because I “see” stories in books and films, it brings me to the topic of “Over-dramatization.” I used one of the many famous pictures from the film “Black Swan” to make my point. When I first saw this film, I got it in the mail via Netflix along with the ace-film “The King’s Speech.” I watched both, back-to-back. “The King’s Speech” is a wonderful film, starred some of my favorite actors, and I agreed with the Best Picture Oscar it earned. No doubt, I give the film 4 out of 4 stars.
Then I watched “Black Swan,” a Best Picture nomination, which also starred actors I like. From beginning to end, I decided the film was overall a strong 3 out of 4 stars. The difference: After seeing “The King’s Speech,” it stayed on my dresser a week. I watched “Black Swan” about five times before sending back both films, and then purchasing the DVD of “Black Swan.” OK, for the non-fans, feel free to question my taste in films. “Goodfellas,” “Fight Club,” and “Snatch” are also on my short list of favorites.
In reading the critiques of “Black Swan” I saw many critics who said it was “Over-dramatized.” And I agree with this, and for me, the over-the-top story, along with some brilliant ballet scenes and the classical music kept bringing me back to it. Every time I watched it, I’d see something different, a subtle hint as the main character undergoes the psychosexual changes and experiences the illusions that transformed her into the alter ego Black Swan that gave her the “perfect” performance she wished for.
In returning to books, I do the same. Fiction sometimes needs to push hard, especially these days of over-the top TV, let alone films, to keep the attention of the reader. I find especially in the YA books, authors don’t push the danger as much as I’d like to see, but this is understandable considering their audience. One of my criticisms of “Twilight” was Meyer backing off on the danger element, never taking the vampires fully to task in the first story and let them fight it out with the bad vampires.
In fiction, I like action/adventure books to give me a ride into the unthinkable, out of the ordinary, and to stress me with action/intrigue, instead of with a big buildup that takes up 75% of the manuscript before I get interested. (Note this is genre-specific, as not all my favorite books/films are action). Over-the-top drama, action, and comedy, though not a needed element in every adventure book, are something to be considered. Boredom is the bane of adventure.
So new authors, go forth, and when you’re thinking action, make your move. Push down the gas pedal and crash the characters. Your editor will help you remove the over-done. To me, in writing, it’s easier to cool than to heat.