I’ve always been a voracious reader of many genres from thriller to historical romance. Lately, I’ve been doing an extensive amount of reading and writing (one blessing of having both kids away at school) and nothing frustrates me more than reading a book (or watching a movie) where an element is introduced, focused on, and then left to languish in a fictitious corner, unused.
It happens with small plot details when things slip through during the editing process (from established and new authors), but it frustrates me equally when it happens with world building.
Early in my writing journey – starting with the type of books I enjoy reading – I learned to embrace the “use it or lose it” philosophy. Simply put, if it doesn’t impact the story, it doesn’t stay in the story. (As a point of trivia, many of my short stories are the result of details and scenes that were yanked from my novels).
Now, granted, there are as many different voices in writing as there are authors and what I’m not talking about here is author voice. Some authors have a gift of flowing, elegant prose and other authors can hone the words to such a spare, razor’s edge you feel as if you might get cut if you read too fast.
The frustration for me is when some element of the setting or world building becomes a focal point. Metaphors, paragraphs, pages are dedicated to this one point… so much so that I’m sure it will be necessary to the characters or critical to the plot… and then nothing more happens.
Today’s example of making those details matter in world building?
You guessed it! I’m pulling once more from the outstanding Avengers movie. (It says ‘the best superhero movie ever’ on my DVD case -and they aren’t exaggerating) But I digress…
Joss Whedon shows his continued brilliance with this film. The mere fact that I’m not bored by it yet is a big clue (not to mention that it was still in theaters here when the DVD released). Everything in this movie matters. Every word, every prop, every camera angle, every well-muscled arm (did I say that out loud?),enhances the viewing experience and moves the characters and story forward.
EVERYTHING. Here are just two examples:
Iron Man installing an arc reactor to make the Stark tower self-sustaining in the opening minutes to the final battle that knocks all the letters off his self-named tower except the ‘A’. ~Character development!
Dialogue has been dissected by fans on both sides of the debate about whether or not a certain agent lived or died. ~That one conversation creates both a plot turning point in Avengers and might hint at what’s to come in future movies.
Whedon and his crew employed ‘use it or lose it’ on this film and I believe that’s one reason why it resonated with such a wide audience and spent months in theaters. The movie can teach authors in all genres to edit with a sharp eye for detail and importance and make it all matter!
Live the adventure!