I can’t remember when movies starting being so predictable. I remember spoiling things for my friends in grade school when we went to the movies. I’d always guess who the killer was, or predict who would be the next victim. After high school things got even worse. I’d actually fall asleep during movies and not miss anything when I woke up. When I watched movies with my first wife, she would laugh and shake her head at me when I spoiled movies for other people.
It’s bad enough I can’t suspend disbelief – and thereby enjoy movies myself – but I’m not a lot of fun to watch them with either. My wife tells me I’ve changed the way she watches TV and movies forever. She’s able to anticipate the endings from about a quarter of the way through. Which is why it’s always such a thrill to be able to find a movie which we not only don’t want to predict the ending for, we aren’t able to predict the ending for. Doesn’t happen a lot, but it’s a happy day when it does.
Recently, I’ve been studying different writer blogs, web sites and anything from the library I can get my hands on to learn about proper story structure. I blogged about how excited I was to finally get it after so many years of doing things instinctively. Sometimes I got them right – my last two WsIP showed this when I compared them to the story structure I learned several weeks ago – but it was hit or miss. Mostly miss in the past, but closer to hits with my more current work. Encouraging for me, but a little embarrassing too – I mean, I’ve been a “writer” for how long, and only now learn about story structure?
Well anyway, what I’ve discovered is that knowing the classic three-act story structure (I learned it as the four-part story structure, which makes much more sense to me) has ruined movies even more … if possible.
For one thing, I can’t help but identify the major milestones of the story as the movie goes along. All movies are built on the classic three-act story structure, and they depart that structure at their own peril. I haven’t seen one yet which does. Since I know how this works now, I’m able to (accurately) predict when something major will happen in the movie. When the milestones occur. Unfortunately, I always confirm my predictions by using the progress bar on the DVR or the DVD player. Which is a little … um … annoying for people watching the movie.
I’m sure my wife is sick to frickin’ death of hearing me talk about this, and laughing maniacally when the movie falls into the pattern in perfect predictability. And TV shows do the same thing, because they’re essentially built on the same story structure framework. But for me, it’s been so fun, I swear I don’t even need to watch the movies anymore. Tell me the concept and I’m going to be able to tell you what happens. (Not really, I’m being braggadocios if you can’t tell.)
So all this learning isn’t for nothing, and I have a few more fine touches to apply before I feel I’ve “mastered” this technique. Still, it’s been fun. Fun as all get-out. And as I learn more I can’t imagine movies are going to become any more entertaining.
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