Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When Analyzing A Story Just Won't Quit

In my pre-kid life I was a publicist for a major movie studio and was privy to a lot of inside knowledge about the films I worked on. Often that made it hard to watch movies for enjoyment’s sake only, knowing that a particular scene was filmed where it was because the unions had made it difficult to film in the first-choice location, that the actor and director positively hated each other and searching for signs of it on screen. Several times a week, I would “have” (tough gig, right?) to watch movies and try to identify potential marketing strategies we’d use to sell the film in my geographical territory.  I could never complain about that job, but it did make watching movies feel like work, and so I escaped to books to lose myself in another world.

This summer I thought I would do the same in reverse.

With the kids home from school and plenty of vacation to disrupt our routine, I knew I wouldn’t have the quiet time and mental space I usually rely on to write and read. It’s hard to plot amidst requests to carve the watermelon or help find new batteries for the Wii remote. So I decided to give myself a total break from it all.

Mmm...not so much.

What I found was that I’d been working so hard recently to dissect books I loved and really hone the story analysis part of my brain, that I just couldn’t turn it off, even though the medium was totally different. On the one hand, there were times I really wanted to lose myself in a story, but on the other hand, I gained appreciation for the techniques other mediums employ and the way they can transfer to my own stories. I watched mindless summer blockbusters, but still gained a whole new appreciation for breathless pacing. 

I watched TV shows that were master classes in realistic dialogue. A stretch of rainy days had us marathon viewing full seasons of TV series, which gave me a great perspective on combining smaller story arcs with an overarching season-long narrative and some kick-ass examples of realistic dialogue. 

I thought I was taking a break, but instead I was expanding my source material and I’m hoping my “time off” has made me a better storyteller.

Of course, I now need to find entirely new diversions since none of these gave my brain a rest. So, can anyone recommend a good board game? Preferably one with absolutely no characters and no background storyline?

And while you’re at it, where have you found inspiration to help you as a storyteller?


  1. Hahaha, this was slightly funny but SO TRUE. It happens to me a lot when I'm in revision stage, but not so much when I'm drafting. I sometimes just CAN'T appreciate a story, meaning get lost in it, if I'm editing my own MS. I keep searching for useless adjectives and tighter writing, etc.

  2. I work in the movies too, but as a programmer for a cinema, so I always watch movies with an eye for what audience it might appeal to, and whether that matches the demographic that comes to my venue. It makes losing myself in a film way harder than it should be....

  3. Great article! I don't think I've been able to just read or watch or engage with any 'story' medium for the pure pleasure of it for years now! Writer brain never stops analysing.

  4. I'm so glad to know it's not just me- or maybe I feel sorry for all of us. It does make me appreciate the times when something is done SO right that I can lose myself in the story.