In the last couple of weeks I’ve watched three movies that were…not good. One of them was straight up awful, the second was bad and lazy and the third was just bland. Now, to be fair, I’ve seen some really good movies in that time too. I love movies and am definitely not trying to malign the art form, I promise.

A good movie tends to have a good story and if it’s well done I’ll overlook what few flaws it might have, and dwell instead on the things I loved and the questions it raised in me. A bad movie though, where the plot is sloppy and full of holes, and where the dialogue is clunky or stilted, now that gets me thinking about storytelling. How could they have made this? I might think. What moron wrote this? I can spend hours picking apart the flaws in a bad story.

I’m learning to be more sympathetic than I used to be in these situations. Putting aside the whole sub-genre of people intentionally making “bad” things, no one sets out to write a bad story. I’ve learned enough about writing to know that people want to tell the story as best they can and it’s an eternally challenging process. Making the words on the page match the images in your head is difficult. I’ve also learned enough about movies now to understand just how many chefs are in that kitchen. To blame a bad movie entirely on the script is short-sighted, at best. The script writers are probably as frustrated as their audience that things didn’t come together.

Thinking about that as I watched a Hollywood blockbuster fail miserably (for me, at least), it got me musing on how lucky I am to be writing in a format that no one else can interfere with unless I explicitly let them. My stories are entirely what I want them to be and only go places the characters and I agree on. Much as I often speak of my characters as separate entities, in the end even they can’t force me to write anything. I have no producers, directors or studio heads telling me what I can and can’t do with my stories. In this modern age where self-publishing is cheap and easy I could, if I wanted, completely avoid ever having an editor.

That’s a wonderfully freeing thing, I think. Writing almost entirely fiction of the sci-fi and fantastical varieties, I’m as unbound by the constraints of reality as I can be. Even in the real world, if I publish this blog a day late (whoops), it doesn’t matter because the deadline is set by me. The topic is chosen by me. Everything I say is decided by me, and no editor or publisher says boo.

There’s obviously a downside to this independence. My novel can go on way too long and meander boringly in places, and despite the feedback of my readers it’s ultimately only me that can fix it. There’s no one to hold me accountable and set deadlines when I’m struggling to motivate. If I can’t come up with ideas of what to write, then I just don’t write. And, in the end, if the story is bad, I’m the only one to blame.

To be honest, I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, which is yet another side effect of complete control. It’s just something I found interesting to think about and so I wrote about it. Maybe I don’t have to have a point. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the individual reader, I suppose.

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