Friday, March 5, 2010

Confidence -- I'm Pro

Yes, I'm in favor of believing in oneself. Shocking, I know. But, I think self-confidence is great.

What motivated these comments? I promise it wasn't just a desire to hear myself talk or an inexplicable love of tapping away at my keyboard. (Though both of those are fun, I could probably fill those without needs without yammering on a blog. Probably.)

Well, yesterday, I had a nice conversation with The Other One about a movie that we both enjoyed. (I'm not going to give the name here, sorry, because I'm about to give a slight critique of it, and I don't want to publicly diss a movie that was actually pretty good. So, I'm just going to take the learning experience, talk about it here, and leave the movie out of it.) My sister mentioned that the emotional arcs of the characters at the end were not very clear, which I also believed to be true.

The real flaw of with the emotional arcs wasn't that the writers weren't capable of getting them right, because they'd proved earlier in the movie that they were capable of sensical and moving emotional arcs. Nor was it the fault with the actors, because they'd already demonstrated in the film the necessary skills.

The problem was that the scenes necessary to convey the emotional shifts in the characters and the changes in the relationships involved (these things were only hinted at in the final film, leaving the audience the work of figuring out what they'd missed), these scenes were not in the film. They were skipped over with the expectation, as far as I could tell, that the viewer would pick up the slack.

(Now, this could be a moment where I talk about Don't Make Your Reader Work So Hard, but I'm going to save that for another moment and talk about my intended topic. [Me staying on topic, that might actually me a shocker for y'all. Woah.])

It seemed to me that this problem displayed a lack of confidence in their on the part of the filmmakers. (This is the point when The Other One told me I was over-thinking. I do not concur. I believe I am thinking just the right amount.) I think they did not have those important scenes because they didn't have enough confidence in their project.

What I think happened is that they worried the movie would run too long and they would lose the attention of their audience. Their solution: Shorten the movie to a length that the audience would willingly pay attention. The problem: They cut important stuff to get it as short as they wanted it.

First of all, they didn't need to shorten it. They had me. I would have gladly watched the extra 10 or 15 minutes they'd have needed to fill out the emotional arcs at the end.

But, if they didn't think they had everyone, then the right answer would not have been to create an inadequate ending (endings are important. For my thoughts on endings, click here.). What they should have done was go back to the beginning and middle and made sure that every scene was sufficiently amazing so that by the time the end came about the viewer would gladly sit for 10 or 15 minutes to finish up the emotional arcs properly.

This seems to me to indicate a lack of confidence in the caliber of their work. They didn't believe it could hold my attention.

We, as storytellers, need to believe in ourselves and our stories. We need to believe in the capability of our writing to hold the attention of readers. And if we don't think what we have is capable of doing that, we need to believe that we are capable of improving it enough to hold the readers attention.

We need to believe in our work and its ability to rock.

How's your writerly self-confidence right now? How important do you think confidence is?


  1. Well, as you know my self-confidence took a hit and I hit the chocolate pretty hard. However, I also realized, with the wonderful help of all the friends in my comments section that I am a good writer and need to keep going. I think you need to have some sort of confidence to keep doing the things you love, whether it singing or dancing or art, writing, playing volleyball, in order for you to keep doing it.

    You need to be able to say, I WILL get the right color, I WILL get the jitterbug down, I WILL get that scene right because if not, if you don't have the confidence to believe in yourself, then you're just mediocre.

  2. In movies, it's usually the producers who insist on shortening the run time. The writers/director have little say in the matter, and it's something the different parties involved often argue over.

    That's why, when movies are released on blu-ray and dvd, they come with special additions that are twenty minutes longer with additional scenes--it's an effort to appease the writers/director. A good example of this is the remake of King Kong.

  3. I've got so much to say about this confidence thing, that I can't even put it in a comment. I think it will be my next blog post, and I'll link to your blog if you don't mind.

  4. My self confidence has taken a bit of a tumble, but I agree with you, that self confidence is everything. I just have to build it back up sometimes. Well, all the time. That can get tricky.

  5. Piedmont -- I like your use of the jitterbug. It's not mentioned often enough on the internet, in my opinion.

    Mathew -- I didn't to rag on the writers. I view any production (including movies) as a collaborative effort. Of course, it still seems to me that someone didn't have confidence enough to bring it longer. I wonder if this movie will have extended scenes.

    Karen -- Of course I don't mind. I'm glad I inspired thoughts. :)

    Glamis -- I have confidence in you. Don't worry. You are awesome.

  6. While I agree with Matthew about the politics of movie making, I still think it's wrong. When movies cut things out or take shortcuts, I feel like they're "dumbing it down" and that just irritates the shiz out of me. I guess it also comes back to that whole thing of "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well."

  7. L.T. -- I definitely agree. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Heck, I'll going beyond 'doing well' and shoot for 'doing totally awesome.'