I love documentaries.
Okay, stay with me. This really does have something to do with writing.
I particularly love documentaries about film making. As a J-school grad, I was required to do my time in the radio and TV departments to get my degree. And, for fun, I took a non-required course in Film Theory. Part of the reason was I loved the instructor, Mr. Hayes, who has since retired as of last spring. But, I also took it because I love stories, whether printed on paper or on film.
Recently, I was watching one of the documentaries that came with my copy of IronMan (2008, Marvel/Paramount). I do this a lot: sit down, watch a documentary about one of my favorite movies. A lot of it was about the special effects, choosing the actors, getting the designs right, etc. What I really found fascinating was the post-production–that time between when the last scene is filmed and it debuts in a theater near you.
Watching what director Jon Favreau went through in those post production weeks got me to thinking about how much detail he went through to get the movie on screen, and I wondered how much the average viewer would actually notice. I know as a director, it’s his artistic vision that gets the movie to whatever point it’s printed and sent to the movie theaters around the world. How much time, energy, thought is put into making a great movie, especially one which is heavy on the special effects?
Probably a lot more than the average person would realize. According to the documentary I watched, it was right around two years — TWO YEARS! — from the time the project was dreamed up to the time it debuted in May 2008. From my understanding, for a movie of its scale, that’s actually pretty darn quick.
The post-production segment was also interesting for other reasons, too, since it dealt primarily with special effects. (Okay, I admit it. In my Top 10 Dream Jobs, working for Industrial Light & Magic is probably at least #5.) They showed how they attempted to accomplish these effects so they were as seamless as they could be–so the average viewer couldn’t tell where reality ended and the effects began.
In our writing, how well do we hide from the average reader that framework which we put our characters, setting, and plot on? If Joe Schmoe walked into Borders or Barnes & Noble and picked up your book, would he be able to tell all of those ‘effects’ that we writers use to tell an engaging story? Perhaps a few… but overall, would he just say, ‘Hey, this was a pretty good read,’ or would something nag at him that bothered him?
It could be the way the story’s told. Something about the characters that don’t seem just right. A weak or predictable plot. If we as writers don’t take the time to rewrite and thoroughly edit our works before putting them before an audience, we run that risk of getting a negative reaction. But, if we take the time, as Favreau did on IronMan, to make our work as good as we can get it, we will get that reader’s response of, ‘Hey, this was a pretty good read.’
So, how well do you hide your ‘framework’?
Until next time,
P.S.–I’m completely looking forward to the debut of IronMan 2 on May 7. If my husband’s not careful, he’ll find he’s sitting with me at 12:01AM in the theater that day! — LS
For additional reading, I recommend the following blog posts:
Suspense With a Twist: Top 10 Mistakes New Fiction Writers Make
Plot Whisperer: The End is the Beginning