Monday, January 9, 2017

Books vs. movies (AKA Bailey's complicated thoughts re: story)

Friends, there's a reason I go to bed early: because if I don't, then I'm tired the next day.
Case in point? Today.
I mean, I'm not complaining (well, sorta), because I was up late retrieving Alex at the airport. Finally! After three weeks, my muffin top is home with me again. I hugged him by the luggage carousel and told him, "California isn't right without you."
"Well, duh," he responded.
I've missed that little sass pot. So romantic it makes me melt.
I watched the movie Blue Jay this weekend. Wow, did Mark Duplass' character make me squirm. So did Sarah Paulson's character, actually. I don't say that as a criticism. I think it was well acted, and thus made me uncomfortable as it was supposed to do.
Anyway, the movie caused a revelation in me. I've known for a long time that I'm more of a book person than a movie person. I'd rather read words than watch figures on a screen and listen to their words; I'm not a great auditory learner. And while I can read in 20 - 30 minute clips before bed, I have a hard time sitting through a two hour feature without getting the urge to pause it and do something else.
So, I did some overthinking yesterday (as I'm wont to do), and came up with some thoughts/ideas/theories. Would you like to hear them? Great:
1. I think that I struggle with the sitting and watching for two hours, because the pace of each movie out there varies so much. Sure, the pace of books varies, but that's when I like to send in my friend Speed Reading. If there's too much description of plants in a book, or too much back-and-forth, clippy dialogue, I just flip a few pages and move forward. Problem solved. If a movie is slow, I'm just like, "Blahhhhhhhh." I don't like waiting for it to get more interesting. And if those slow parts are filled with awkwardness or sadness, then I'm like, sitting with that emotion inside me until the director/screenwriter decides to move me forward. No thank you. I have enough awkwardness and sadness in my real life; I don't need a movie to inject more of it in me.
As I writing all this, I realize that this may explain why I'm a fan of the great American sitcom. Cheesy? Sure. Formulaic? Like a bottle for a baby.
But does it move quickly enough for Bailey's ADD brain? Yep, it sure does.
I know it's pathetic to think that life gets wrapped up in 22 minutes, but at least I know that I'm only investing 22 minutes of my life in a story. (More on story in a bit. Hold that thought).
2. Now this thought/theory might be a "no duh" to many of you who have already thought through all this, but it only occurred to me just yesterday that movies contain emotional elements that books don't.
Like I said, no duh.
Now sure. While I'm reading, I'm picturing characters in my head. I'm hearing their heated, angry dialogue. And I'm relating to their emotions.
But I can't remember the last time a book has made me uncomfortable.
When I watch people in a movie sit through an awkward silence, cheat on someone they love, yell at their parents, I bring my hands to cover my mouth. I clutch myself, willing the scene to be over. It's hard for me to handle. All those things can happen in a book, and I'm totes fine.
There's something about the visual, and the auditory element, that really affects me. Add in a well-orchestrated score, and it really tugs at all my feelings. I've deemed myself a highly sensitive person before, but I never really thought of it in accordance to my abilities in participating at the local cinema.
To be sure, I rarely go to the movie theater. I do my best to vet a movie before I go, to be fairly certain I won't have a rough emotional time while I'm there. Half the time I see kids' movies, to be safe. At home, I can turn something off, but I'm too chicken to walk out of the theater, especially when I'm in company. So, I'm just realizing this now, but I think I understand a little more clearly that I may, in fact, actually be avoiding the local AMC.
It all just makes me go, "Hmm," ya know? The first step in this life is often self awareness, so maybe I'm about to have a breakthrough here, who knows?
Now. Back to story.
I've heard people talk about this a lot. People chat about the power of story, the ancient ritual of spoken stories, before paper and pen. Donald Miller wrote a whole book about story, and now leads workshops on it. Yesterday, my pastor preached on the importance of story to humans.
As a writer, I've never thought of myself as a "story person," whatever that might be.
Alex laughs at me when I tell him this, because he doesn't understand how a writer could possibly not be a story person.
"I don't know," I tell him. Because I don't really know how to explain it, and I think maybe I am a story person and don't realize it.
Sure, I'm absolutely a fan of the redemptive story. I need to hear and read and see stories of repaired lives, of happiness restored, of a scared, feral cat named Office Max finding a home in my lap, where he constantly returns to, purring in the freedom of domestic bliss.
But as much as I love the conclusion of these stories, when everything's all good, I have a really hard time milling about in the painful part.
I pride myself on being able to listen to people talk about anything they're going through emotionally. People can be incredibly depressed, over the moon happy, or so anxious they feel like life is over. I can hear all that, because I've been there.
But scenes in movies where people fight, or talk past each other, or stare at the wall in their apartment, staring so hard you can just see the weight on their chest? Yeah, I hate those.
I watched Brooklyn with Alex a while back, and I made it through the whole thing in one piece, until the credits started to roll. And then I basically sobbed into Alex's chest. I related to Eilis' plight too much. Not the torn love story part, but the being far from family part. The guilt part. The grief part.
To be honest, while I think that Nick Hornby* is a genius, and I've enjoyed what I've read of his stuff, I don't know if I feel like watching Brooklyn was a good use of my time. It made me feel, but I don't know that I considered it cathartic -- at least not in the "Wow, I feel better now" way. Every time I remember watching that movie, it just makes me feel heavy. Not grateful.
[*To be clear, while Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay of this film, the story is not his. Colm Toibin is the novel's author.]
I'm well aware that I'm rambling right now. Which is the beauty of a blog. One doesn't need a beginning, middle and end to build a blog post. One just writes.
I don't know where I'm going with all this, but I guess part of what I'm trying to say is that I don't love all the "essential" elements of a story. I don't like conflict. I want to read a two sentence synopsis of the conflict, and then get to the grand apology scene. I don't like a lot of description (unless it's beautiful and makes me catch my breath). I HATE reading about a character's "sandy brown ponytail." Gag. I never need to read those three words again. It bothers me when writers list names of plants. Why? Because I couldn't identify a common oak if you asked me. It makes me feel inadequate to read about poplars and rhododendrons and bougainvillea. Plus, I don't care what type of flower is in the heroine's window box.
Wow. Sorry. Got a little Grinchy there.
I'll stop. Mostly because I'm not creating a story here, and I understand that story is a crowd pleaser. I'm just throwing thoughts out and hoping they land.
So anyway. If you have thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them. Hit me up with your comments, yo.
Be back soon.

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