Thursday, December 5, 2013

Perils of the Writer: Hooks and Investment

Let's talk for a moment about Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, possibly the biggest disappointment of the current season of television.  And it was the biggest disappointment because the expectations were set high: take the biggest hit of big screen of 2012, a movie which successfully integrated the worlds of multiple movies to create a mega-star movie, and have the acclaimed and beloved writer/director of that movie helm a new show to explore the deeper nooks and crannies of the greater Marvel cinematic universe that a movie couldn't take the screen time to do.

How could it fail?

If I may be so bold, I'd suggest that it failed with its hooks.  Namely, it treats its characters as its biggest hooks, when those characters are not hooking the audience at all. And it feels like it considers it's big hook-- its setting-- as more of an albatross than advantage.  One of the executive producers was even quoted saying something like, "You shouldn't be looking for easter eggs".

Now half a season in, its somewhat clear that what we are seeing is not the "growing pains" of a genre show finding its feet.  Rather, we're seeing the very show the creators want to do: in essence, a brighter, less skeptical* X-Files.  

And that isn't hooking.

Now that's always the challenge a writer faces: that the characters that you love, these hooks that fascinate you... well, that it's just you.  No one else is going to invest in it like you do.

And this is especially true with genre writers.  We spent hours upon hours drawing maps and hashing out centuries of history.  We are deeply, deeply invested in our work, even if the quality of the work itself doesn't match the passion behind it.  I can't tell you how many manuscripts I've read for critiquing purposes that, while the writing didn't hold up, the love was practically pouring off the page.

I didn't get into the story, but I knew that the writer was utterly in love with it. 

And, frankly, the craft can be improved, if the love is there.

*- By "less skeptical", I mean when they're investigating hovering bodies or apparent telekinesis, they approach it as you would in a world where superheroes beat off an alien invasion in downtown New York: as the sort of thing you have to accept happens now. 

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