Not too long ago, I was having lunch with some friends when the usual topic of what book we were reading, or movie or TV show we were watching. Since many of us love either one or all of those mediums, we spent a good deal of time talking about them.
Not surprisingly, this kind of conversation led to complaints on how a book didn’t explain something well, or a movie ended poorly, or a TV show had a subplot that made no sense. As the complaints went on, one of my friends said, “I think the audience is getting smarter. So writers are going to have to step it up and not get lazy.”
That sounds like a challenge. And a daunting task. I once discussed how it is common for writers of all mediums to cut to the chase in order to move storylines along. It makes sense why we do it. But are we being lazy?
If our endings fall flat, then yes, we are being lazy. If a character does something out of left field, then yes, we will have to explain how that person got out of character, so to speak.
But if a minor detail is not fully explained or developed, does that matter? And what if a major part of our plot leads to more questions that turn into a long list of possibilities, did we as authors not think out our plots well? Meaning, what if our plot creates a domino effect and makes someone say, “Hey, if that were to happen, then XYZ would happen. And this would happen. And why would not that happen? And how then would that happen?” – ad infinitum.
I agree that all writers need to take responsibility for everything they write about, but how much is too much when it comes to explaining our stories? Should we worry about minor details that really don’t effect our stories as much as we worry about major details? And how deep should we go when we analyze storyline ideas? I’m sure many of us wouldn’t want our readers to wonder about the storyline possibilities that we didn’t think about. I’d want to analyze the possibilities thoroughly before creating a story, and knowing I missed a minor detail or forgot about the chances of something else happening would be a little embarrassing for me.
But if we were to be extra careful, would we come up with any storylines? I mean, if one thing cannot be done then neither of the other 10 plotlines, or else the domino effect will come up as I mentioned earlier. Maybe just taking a look at one possibility is enough rather than looking at a much wider picture. After all, wouldn’t we writers drive ourselves nuts if we looked at 20 different possibilities?
As for minor details, I think if they really don’t play a role in the plot or character development, then I don’t see the point in getting tangled up in them. Granted, it may be laziness, but it also may be necessary if they are simply meant to be minor details.
Now when it comes to endings, yes it is imperative that we writers get that right. We don’t like it when they’re terrible, so why have our readers feel the same way when they read our work? Same for character development gone awry or subplots not making sense. I’d say this is when the belief that writers should write a story they want to read comes in. We all don’t want a lousy story or maybe even a mediocre one, so why reduce our stories to that level? And if we are the type to nitpick at every little thing, then we should do the same to our work.
But I’m sure if we were to try that, not only would we give ourselves headaches, but we also won’t get anything done.
Besides, I think it is safe to say that every story ever told has some flaws. Look at the negative book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. There’s always someone who will find something wrong with a book, no matter how many more think it’s excellent. Remember, writing is subjective. Does that mean laziness? No, it just means that there’s no such thing as the perfect book. We writers can try our absolute best, but we will fall short somewhere. That’s just the way it goes.