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!