The Storyteller’s Curse

Cover of "Broken Arrow"
Cover of Broken Arrow

When I was in the military, I worked most of it in the Environmental field.  It’s a bit complicated, but the jist was that I tracked hazardous materials, sampled hazardous waste to ensure it was disposed according to the laws of the government, both state and federal.  I loved it to a point (though some of that waste was, phew, stinky).  The problem was that as soon as you get too much information about anything, be it nursing, lasers, dog sitting – whatever – or in my specific case hazardous waste and information about radiation monitoring (along with what to do if there is an attack with a nuclear bomb, stuff like that) is when you watch a movie that centers around that topic, you become the worse critic.

In my case: Broken Arrow with John Travolta and Christian Slater (egads, what happened to him?  Anyone know?).  The movie is a great adventure with awesome (mostly) acting and fantastic dialog.  BUT, every time I watch it I inevitably shake my head, grind my teeth, and muscle my way through it.  First of all, a Broken Arrow isn’t a term that is only associated with the loss of a nuclear weapon, but it encompasses a whole lot more.  Second of all, the security they’d have on the B-2 wouldn’t make it that easy for him to steal it…

That’s just the start of it.  I could go on for an hour (and have), but I won’t this time.  It’s painful watching any movie about a topic that we know, are passionate about, understand because of our job.  I’ve found sites from real NCIS Agents talking about how accurate the show is.  Oh, and don’t get me started on any movie that has the Air Force featured.  I’ll rip that happily to shreds.

Yet, we can still muster our way through these movies because we can shrug (or pretend to) it off and say:  “Well, it’s a movie.  It’s not supposed to be accurate.”  It’s not a curse, making it impossible to watch it.

No, the true curse is for storytellers.  I don’t care if you write short stories, novellas, novels, or scripts.  You could be a verbal storyteller for all I care (aka bard), our curse is worse – oh so much worse.

As a craft, the very nature of our job is to build a story.  There’s plot, there’s dialog, there’s action, emotional angst, pain, the uh-huh yeah right moments.  It’s there and behind the scenes of every movie and story is the writer.  You know, us.  Here’s the problem though:

Understanding the methodology of a good story no matter the genre, topic, or fanciful imaginings, ruins movie watching.  You see, there is a standard formula.  Conflict + Suspense + Character = (Good) Story.  Plot lines have been done over and over… and over again.  If you think about it there are probably only 10 (I’ll be generous) plot lines that can be sampled from.  The difference is the road to get to the end.  The character interaction which is what makes the story work, makes it fun!

But – when you’ve built so many stories in your head, outlined them… whatever, movies, TV shows, and books become predictable.  It’s sucks, really.  Let me give you an example:

The Grey
The Grey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband and I recently watched The Grey with Liam Neeson who, once again, did a fantastic acting job.  It’s not his fault the plot line was too slow and lacked depth.  He had the depth and that’s what is important.  (I’m a HUGE fan btw).  Anyway, we got about halfway through and I was already disillusioned because I didn’t like wolves being the bad guys.  It was accurate, but I don’t have to like it now do I?  That was my first problem, my second came out in the middle when they are running to the water.  I get up to go outside with the dogs and my hubby asked if I wanted him to pause it.

I told him no because I knew what was going to happen and told him.  When I got back he confirmed that I was right except for one detail.

*Groans*  See what I mean?  I do it with mysteries too.  Within 15 minutes I know who did it and probably why.  I may not be exact, but I’m close enough to impress anyone I do it for the first time.  (I don’t unless asked though in case anyone was worried).  I think the only ones that still catch me by surprised are stupid comedies (Kung Fu Hustle) and romantic sappy movies (The Notebook) because I don’t care for either genre.

I know I’m not alone in this burden of a curse.  Friends who are also writers have the same problem.  We know the plot lines because we have to cycle through them and try to find a fresh take on it.  We understand the dynamics that have to create the atmosphere for the story.  When a movie or a book catches me by surprise I am thrilled beyond belief.  I almost want to throw a party.  It’s sad, but true.


4 thoughts on “The Storyteller’s Curse

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s