Does being a writer hamper your enjoyment of other fiction?

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moderntimes
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Does being a writer hamper your enjoyment of other fiction?

Post by moderntimes » 06 Nov 2015, 20:15

There's an old joke... A reporter is covering a joke writers' convention. One of the jokers takes the stand and calls out "twenty-seven" to which everyone laughs. Another speaker calls "fifty-three" for which there's only scattered laughter. And the third speaker takes the mic and says "seventy-two" with tumults of hilarity. The reporter asks his host "What's the deal?" "Well, all these professional joke writers know the biz, and so they don't bother actually telling the joke. They've numbered all the normal and standard jokes so the speaker only needs to call out the number instead of telling the joke itself." Then the fourth speaker says "eighty-four" and nobody laughs, except this one guy at a corner table, who breaks out into gales of laughter. "So?" the reporter asks. "Well, he's not heard that one before."

My funny point being, and this topic is mostly for fun, maybe a little serious -- does being a writer hamper your normal enjoyment of entertainment, because you know the inside stuff?

Two personal examples: My girlfriend & I were watching the premiere episode of NCIS-NewOrleans which is an "okay" show, and there were deaths aboard a Navy ship docked in NO. After about 5 minutes, I said "It's the doctor. He's the killer." and my gf was pretty irritated at me because I was correct and had spoiled the show for her, inadvertently.

Not long ago I watched the very well done "Jesse Stone" mystery, and I knew from the very first that the murderer was the police lieutenant. Why? Because only 3 people besides Jesse knew the modus op of the serial killer who'd killed 3 women but swore he didn't kill the 4th. There was Jesse's female boss, the coroner, and the cop who was briefly introduced. Now the show itself was excellent, great filming, fine acting, dialogue, etc, but I knew the bad guy from the outset because the show had not given us any other suspects to choose from. If they'd had maybe 2-3 other possibles, fine. But they simply didn't give us any choice.

My gf is a big fan of police procedurals on TV. Fine. But I just can't abide them because it takes me about 10 minutes max to know the outcome. This is because the writers stay with a tried and true formula and some viewers like this, but it bores me because I know who dunnit.

I review mystery books for a fairly well known mystery website and I read maybe 5-6 novels a month. I understand that fans or newbie readers may not be cognizant of the techniques of writing a mystery and may therefore miss the idea that the story is formulaic. I try to minimize this as much as possible, in that I, as an mystery novelist myself and a lifelong fan of the genre, may "catch on" with the use of old and overused themes, and so I sometimes criticize a book if it's too over the top with tired memes. But I also try to give the author the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, I TRY to enjoy today's action-thriller or mystery TV shows -- just for pure laid back pleasure -- but it really gets difficult. Most any show, I can figure out the story line right away, and very few shows challenge me, even for simple fun, and this isn't something I look forward to.

But after working hard on the intricate plot twist of my 4th mystery novel, painstakingly tweaking the story threads and delving into various red herrings (maybe) and clues and such, and after reading some very fine top mystery novels by Robert Crais or John Sandford, I'm kind of spoiled.

Now I'm speaking from the aspect of a mystery writer. But are the same sort of things a problem for you, as a writer? Just wondering.
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Post by KS Crooks » 07 Nov 2015, 07:58

Having recently finished doing a course in Forensic Science I understand how you feel about police drams on TV. I do find many of them very predictable or containing things currently are not possible, but there also is the fun for me. Shows such as CSI create situations or techniques that are not currently unable to be done, however they provide ideas to real life people in the profession. I also tend to favour shows that focus equally on the psychological aspect since there doesn't have to be a logical reason for the criminal's behaviour. Since I started writing my own stories I have a greater appreciation for not only the work that goes into writing for any medium, but even more for the imagination of the writers. A personal favourite from the past was the TV show Columbo staring Peter Falk. You always new who the murderer was well before the was over, the mystery was in how Columbo was going to prove it.

The only time I'm highly critical is for anything dealing with Batman and Superman, as I've been a comic collector for a long time. Any new TV show or movie I view with a more mindful eye. I know all of the current and background stories, which makes me less able to tolerate anything that strays too far from established story lines.

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Post by moderntimes » 07 Nov 2015, 09:20

There is indeed a canon for established comic figures and a sort of "gospel" to which all subsequent stories must adhere. Sometimes that "gospel" is re-interpreted, like making Nick Fury a black guy. Which is fine with me.

As a comic collector myself, I've got original (and some signed) first editions of many underground comix -- hey, I lived in San Francisco briefly in the 60s -- such as Zap #0, Zap #1, the original Furry Freak Brothers, a signed original special review of S. Clay Wilson's comix, and so on. And, feast your eyes on this -- I've got an Amazing Fantasy #15, too.

I enjoyed Columbo too. It was fun to watch how he drove the guilty person almost nuts.

I joke with my girlfriend about her enjoyment of Law & Order (which I can't stand) because during the Sam Waterston era, the murderer was always a rich, snobby, white person. Every. Single. Time.

My private detective novels are meant to be highly realistic and are fairly authentic regarding to police procedures, crime detection, how real private eyes work, and I use real streets, locales, and other things in my books, to establish verisimilitude. I've studied modern criminology and know quite a few cops myself (we go target shooting together) and several actual private eyes, too. And so in my books I poke fun at fictional tough-guy private eyes and also TV crime shows like CSI.

I've studied film making, too, just because I love movies so much and so my screenplays (as yet not optioned, sigh) would be better. And so when I'm watching a TV show or a movie, I'm aware of camera angles ("That's a two-shot"), types of scenes, dialogue techniques, and so on.

This spoils most medium-quality TV for me, and I therefore am only turned on by something that's out of the ordinary and unconventional, like the recent "Hannibal" TV series, by Brian Fuller. Now that show challenged me.

Being knowledgeable about mystery writing techniques and general film technique has limited my appreciation for "average" fare but it's at least sharpened my enjoyment for the really good stuff.
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Post by Carrie R » 14 Nov 2015, 11:10

It can. Sometimes it's for the reasons you mention, but most times it's because I can't shut my internal editor off. Argh.
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Post by moderntimes » 14 Nov 2015, 11:47

I'm always second guessing most TV shows, the ones with leaky scripts. As a mystery novelist, I am especially aware of plot holes and too many spoil the stew for me.

On the other hand, having studied film composition and such in connection with my screenwriting, I am also cognizant of good camera angles and can better appreciate the skill shown. So it's a mixed bag, depending entirely upon the quality of the show.
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Post by Vivian Paschal » 17 Jun 2017, 17:03

I have taught myself to enjoy every good story, as far as it is well told. I believe writers more often than not reflect their styles in the little things we see as flaws. I tell myself things that sound like, "Maybe it's less about who did it and more about why he or she did it." If I don't allow myself have fun reading a book or watching a TV show, then there's no point reading or watching it in the first place.

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Post by Angela Stripes » 21 Sep 2017, 23:27

Taking creative writing classes has spoiled me, but even before then, I was a picky reader. Its harder to get into a less-than-well-written novel, but when I find one that really hits it out of the park, I enjoy and appreciate it so much more. Plot reasons, yes, but imagery, descriptions, characters... because I've learned so much, I'm more impressed when a technique is done well or uniquely.

Consequently, I have a shorter fuse for other novels. Juvenile is fine, just as long as its interesting or well-written.

-- 21 Sep 2017, 21:27 --

Taking creative writing classes has spoiled me, but even before then, I was a picky reader. Its harder to get into a less-than-well-written novel, but when I find one that really hits it out of the park, I enjoy and appreciate it so much more. Plot reasons, yes, but imagery, descriptions, characters... because I've learned so much, I'm more impressed when a technique is done well or uniquely.

Consequently, I have a shorter fuse for other novels. Juvenile is fine, just as long as its interesting or well-written.

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Post by Brandi Noelle » 26 Oct 2017, 15:02

I find if the book I'm reading is good, I am more inspired than anything else. Inspired to take risks I might not have otherwise. However, if the book is poor - be it poorly written, poorly edited, poorly plotted, etc. - I spend the entire time criticizing it in my mind.

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