Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Differing Perspectives

"The Box," the movie with Cameron Diaz and James Marsden, came out on DVD Tuesday. One of the perks to working at a video store is that you get to watch the movies a little early, so that you can tell inquiring minds/customers your opinion of the new releases.

So there's this female I work with - for the sake of anonymity, we'll call her Napkin. So Napkin watched "The Box" before many of the other employees, and had a little rant about the movie. "They didn't explain anything!" Napkin cried.

I found this surprising, because, if you've seen the trailer, it's quite clear that "The Box" is one of those thrillers with an intricate plot that is supposed to have at least most of the plot lines tied up before the movie ends. "They didn't explain anything?" I asked.
"They didn't explain anything!" Napkin repeated. "At the end of the movie, it's completely unclear what's going on!"

Not that I don't trust Napkin or anything, but I decided to watch the movie anyway.

I was then perplexed.

You see, dear reader, whom I choose to address in the second person though you're probably nonexistent, I thought that pretty much everything was explained, and that furthermore, much was insinuated. I felt a sense of completion at the end of the movie.

This differing of perspectives got me thinking about explanation in writing.

In the movie which I've been using as an example, I feel that the screenwriter showed us the dots, connected most of the lines, and left the filling in of the picture to the reader's intelligence. Not to say that Napkin isn't intelligent, for she is.

It seems to me, however, that Napkin wants everything explained to her. In detail. Whereas I find too much detail excruciating and boring.

As someone who writes (though not as much as she should be, lately), I'm not going to lie - I mostly write for myself. Don't get me wrong, I want other people to like my writing, too. I want to write something I know I am proud of first, though. Then I get too lazy to revise, so, you know, stuff stays the way I wrote it, and people probably think I'm crazy.

Yet I digress. As a writer, I don't want to confuse my readers. But I also don't want to spell everything out for them, and treat them like idiots.

So how much explanation is TOO MUCH explanation? And how do we know when we're giving too little explanation? I realize the obvious answer is to have someone else read your work. It seems to me, however, that opinions on this question can be too varying. For example, my dear, respected co-worker Napkin and I both like each other, but we're on opposite ends of the spectrum.



Possum said...

My friend's brother works at a movie store. So because of that, with the movies he gets from work (even before release date), he makes a COPY of the movie! So his movie collection is completely ridiculous! Although that's illegal, so shhh.

ANYWAY, I'd like to say that a blog entry from you is tres cool! Yay! This has made me happy.


Napkin? I love that fake name! You should come up with a name for my stuffed rhino! Do it, Shelly! Do it!

On an off note, Cameran Diaz is one of those actors I don't really care for. I saw her in the movie My Sister's Keeper this summer, and I just wanted to beat her up. Sure it was the CHARACTER, but nonetheless, the way Diaz (?) acts her characters is rather annoying. But this is a prejudice I already have in my head from when I was younger when my mom said she didn't like her. Oy! That's not good!

"Not that I don't trust Napkin or anything, but I decided to watch the movie anyway." That line is priceless. XD! You win! I mean... Even more.

How was The Box in general, though? I remember it seemed SLIGHTLY interesting (a box! that you can kill someone with!) but I never got around to seeing it in theaters. OOH! Maybe I'll rent it, and be all "did you get a sense of closure?" Haha.

So the purpose:

When I'm reading the book, I kind of don't like TOO much detail in what happens next, JUST IN CASE something happens that I don't want to happen. Like, I remember reading this book last year. And the girl and the guy get together! But in the epilogue it explains they break up a year later due to the age difference (a whooping year). But I didn't like that. I tried to imagine it WITHOUT the epilogue, but it just couldn't be helped. I just couldn't help thinking "they broke up". Now, it was just a one time read, but I still remember it now.

NOW! On the other hand, just recently I read Blood & Chocolate. Have you read it? If not, well, the way it ended, it had POTENTIAL in how the story could go. It doesn't SAY what happens, but, well, it's insinuated. I got it. And I assume other readers as well. But because I enjoyed the book SO MUCH BEFORE, I was kind of hoping to have it down On PAPER how it goes. I guess that could be a reason why fan fiction is so popular.

Which moves into the writing portion.

When I write (...) I kind of assume the reader will understand some stuff. I don't like having TOO much detail. Just look at the Twilight series. That series is FILLED with details that aren't even IMPORTANT to the overall experience! Nobody needs to know how beautiful Edward Cullen is every second sentence, OR what Bella Swan had for breakfast that morning. I kind of get the impression that Meyer just ASSUMES her readers are stupid, thus needing such explanation. She only gives credit to her older readers. But hey! That's totally another thing.

Overall, there needs to be a balance (like many other things) involving explanation and detail. I can see why you want the moments to think about what happens, while Napkin just wants it to be shown to her. I'm sort of on the Napkin side of things (I like epilogues if it goes my way) while I also enjoy thinking more about the story. I like having those moments when I can write loads of fan fiction on a story because of it.

Shelly Quade said...

Hi, Possum! I'm glad you like the anonymous name I chose. :)

I don't usually like Cameron Diaz, either - but even when a movie has someone you don't usually care for, sometimes they do a good job. Who knows? Maybe even Megan Fox will one day surprise us by displaying actual emotion along with her cleavage on the screen.

Personally, I liked "The Box." I wasn't expecting it to take the direction it did, and I both hated and loved the insinuation at the end.

I agree with you - there definitely needs to be balance. Finding the balance, on the other hand, can sometimes be difficult.

Thanks for the long comment!