Do you analyze everything?

Yesterday, I was told by a friend of mine on the train that I am a hyper-critical person. She was referring to a number of things, namely the fact that my edits to her novel were very in depth and questioning, prodding for character details and asking about portrayals. In that sense, I agree with her. I have high standards when it comes to writing, and I keep those standards when I edit both my own work and the work of others. I believe that edits that aren’t hyper-critical aren’t edits at all.

It’s the second point she made that I want to discuss today. She mentioned the first Hobbit movie, a film I loathe not because I’m a huge fan of source material (I’m not), but because I found it boring on many levels. For example, the thirteen dwarves, in my opinion, have no real personality. They rarely talk about themselves, and the only one who gets any true development in the film is Thorin. You can say that’s a fault of the novel as well, which I know it is, but the novel is not the first part of a trilogy. With thirteen dwarves that I’m supposed to care about, I need more defining traits than just “the old one,” “the fat one,” “the attractive one,” and so on. Since the dwarves had no development, I had no investment in them. So, when they got captured or put in danger (which happened a lot), I couldn’t bring myself to care because I didn’t know anything about them.

I mentioned this to her, and she called me hyper-critical.

I don’t argue that point.

I have trouble going along for the ride in films, (or for what matter, any form of entertainment). When I don’t like something, I think about why I don’t like it. When a book makes me pause or question a character’s actions, I don’t just gloss over it, I think about it. Was what gave me pause a problem I had with the character’s personality? Did I find this action believable? And so on. I do this almost subconsciously—I don’t need to make myself do it. I just do.

My friend, apparently, does not.

Because I am a writer, I am very glad that I am hyper-critical, to use my friend’s words. It means that I pay attention to stories, and learn what I like and don’t like, so that when I write my own work, I can avoid the pratfalls that bothered me in other stories.

Nostalgia Critic discusses something similar to this in one of his editorials. He poses the question of what makes a movie bad. I agree with his ideas, and believe they can be applied to all mediums.

And that is the question I pose to you now. Do you analyze things you like and don’t like? Do you take a step back and ask yourself why something worked or didn’t work? Or do you just shut your brain off and go for the ride?

I’m curious what you have to say. Please let me know!

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2 thoughts on “Do you analyze everything?

  1. Great post, Derek! I think you should take your friend’s comment as a compliment—it means you constantly strive to improve your writing (or help someone else improve his or hers when you edit), and how can that be a bad thing? When I read, I find it difficult to get lost in a story unless it is well constructed; if it isn’t, I find I mentally edit as I read, and that’s just too much like work! Paying attention to what works and what doesn’t in other authors’ writing is a great way to learn and become a stronger writer yourself.

    1. Thank you very much! And I did take it a compliment, even though I know it wasn’t meant that way from her. :)

      Whenever I find myself not getting lost in the story, I try to figure out what it is that is preventing me from doing so. I have high standards, like I said in my post, and it’s difficult for me to let things slip by. I feel like I’ve taught myself so much just by trying to understand why something didn’t work for me.

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