Monday, January 9, 2017

All In How You Say Goodbye

I have to admire anyone who has writing goals for the year, or any personal goals at all. With two puppies underfoot, I'm just happy if I get sleep!

So I won't be talking about goals, but I do want to take a minute to give my thumbs up to the latest in a long line of shows that's entertained me, and how it connects to a few of my storytelling pet peeves.

The OA.

Now, before we watched it, I'd seen there were some ringing endorsements, and I'd also heard there were some scathing criticisms of the ending. I stayed out of all of the discussion and didn't see the details.

I'm an oddity. I usually don't mind spoilers. I think they're unnecessary in a comedy and that can be a little irritating (because sometimes a spoiler spoils the joke) but I often look up information about characters or if there's going to be another season of the show. It doesn't usually bother me to read about an episode before I've seen it. I'm a grown up. I mean, I saw some remarks about The OA on Facebook and just didn't engage in them because I hadn't watched the show, so I remained spoiler-free.

I'm giving two thumbs up to the show for fully embracing its quirks, staying true to its form unapologetically, and being the first show in a long while that I've never looked up a single spoiler for. As we started this show I soon realized I just wanted it to unfold as the writers intended, and it was worth it to just take that ride. At many points I had no idea how things would progress, and it kept me engaged and entertained.

And the ending was brilliant.

Okay, I have to admit to having a bit of pet peeve with some storytelling conventions. It's funny how we push for realism, and yet defy that with standard storytelling components regularly.

My pet peeves include:

#1. Info-dumping the character history.

God, I hate the obligatory "must dump in several paragraphs about why this character is special/what their personal quest is/every detail about their life until this point" section that comes early on in so many books. You never meet a person and know everything about their entire life in the snap of a finger. Part of the enjoyment of meeting someone is getting to know them, and that's a process. If it wasn't for walking Scout at the Duck Pond I may have never known my husband was attacked by ducks when he was a kid, and that's after 9 years together.

#2. Tying everything up in a pretty bow at the end.

Every question answers, every loose thread tied off. Yes, because that's how it is in real life. I'm not saying you don't answer the who-dunnit. Remember The Killing season 1 ending? Yes, that annoyed a lot of people. In that format, I understand the criticism. However, you don't have to resolve everything, and particularly in a series book, maybe there should be some things left hanging out there to be picked back up in a subsequent book.

Consider The OA. Consider how it would not have worked if the backstory had been info-dumped. Consider how the ending stayed true to the format of the entire show. This wasn't a show that was big on rushing to explanations, and the end was as mysterious as the story was from the start.

And how many times has there been a story about someone emotionally and mentally damaged who quickly just unloaded their feelings and started healing? Thank GOD The OA kept OA as truly messed up and complicated as she ever was, from start to finish.

It's a completely different story, and yet there are some similarities to Rectify, which is one of the best shows that's been on cable in recent years.

Thank God there are opportunities for brave storytelling that's willing to buck conventions and push boundaries.

Thank God there are producers and directors and writers out there who see the potential in this, and are willing to embrace a more realistic approach to storytelling.

At the risk of starting 2017 as the least popular person in the genre, I have to say that maybe writers wouldn't be moaning about declining readerships if they were willing to take more risks and push the boundaries. Look at how TV has been doing it. Look at Netflix original shows. Look at The Man in the High Castle. Hulu, Amazon and Netflix have pushed the networks to bring shows like Rectify.

Maybe the reason we aren't engaging with our audience is that we're too tied to formula to show readers we're evolving. It's why the one thing I have been doing is attempting to write outside the genre. It's a type of cross-training that pushes you outside your comfort zone, but the end is that you have a far more open mind about the possibilities of storytelling than you did before.

The OA's ending will have me back for more in season 2. It earned its audience.

No comments: