It’s a Nice Idea, But…

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Have you ever the blurb on the back of a movie or book and were immediately intrigued by the plot line, you get it home, eager to see how it will pan out, only to be disappointed at the unfulfilled potential concept. This happened recently with Will Self’s Book of Dave. I forget how I first heard of it, but I had it in the back of my mind to read for a while. The plot is basically about a disenchanted cab driver who writes an angry tirade on life, only to have it dug up years later, after an apocalypse, and taken as a religious text. I thought it was a fairly original idea and an interesting commentary on religion, but was mildly disappointed once I started reading it by a sub par plot line, a few obvious ‘aha’ moments and a not entirely convincing dialogue style. Sometimes an ‘interesting’ idea is harder to play out than to come up with. It’s easier to be carried by the idea and pay less attention to the details, essentially the need to make it believable and relatable to the audience, or to over compensate by the unlikely circumstances, bogging the story down in semantics, further distancing the reader.
Another example that springs to mind is Waterworld, showing how a creative idea was ruined by lazy writers resorting to cliche driven dialogue, and subtexting the plot with typical Hollywood scenarios. Or the science fiction genre, which is full of fascinating ideas, but is probably held back by its more limited appeal, and has only been beautifully orchestrated a handful of times, it usually appears in a camp, b-movie sort of style.

On the other hand, stories that appear rather dull can actually be surprisingly good, such as
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Waiting for Godot, Rememberance of Things Past, if you were to read the plot lines of these pieces they’re less than intriguing, a women waiting at a train station and recalling her past affair, two men waiting for the appearance of an equivocal character, a man reliving, in painful detail, his childhood memories, but the subdued subject matter allows more freedom for the author to fully explore all the facets of their focus. Same with film, such as Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Lost in Translation, Jim Jarmush’s and Walt Stillman’s work. These films have very little action, the focus mainly being the dialogue. Again the creators are able to fully realize the characters, and create a realistic representation of life, which rarely involves much action, and where seemingly slight occurances bear significant repercussions. Both subdued plots and extreme plots come with their own challenges, maybe the trick is to approach far out storylines as banal material and common place plots as the most compelling thing to ever happen.

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