(Caveat: I have never written a screenplay. It is unlikely I will ever write a screenplay. I know nothing about writing screenplays.)
I got that out of the way right up front because I’m about to discuss lazy writing, based upon a weekend of watching movies. In a little over 24 hours I saw Deadpool 2, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Crazy Rich Asians and The Meg.
This was not really on purpose, mind you. The Dearly Beloved and I were in Southwest Michigan for the weekend and our little cottage doesn’t have TV reception, so we watch a lot of movies. Deadpool 2 was at Redbox so we snagged it Saturday night.
Then MI:F was at the local dollar cinema in Paw Paw and we caught the Sunday matinee, mainly to get out of the freakin’ heat and humidity for a couple of hours.
Then while driving around (because the car has air conditioning and it was STILL FREAKIN’ HOT) we stumbled upon a real, honest-to-goodness Drive In movie theater in Dowagiac, with double feature showing that night.
You can Google reviews elsewhere, but I am easily amused and had a great time with all four movies. But through this marathon I started contemplating lazy writing, and how it’s so easy a trap to fall into.
It all started with DP2, when (um, spoiler? maybe?) the main character twice broke the 4th wall and tossed off “that’s just lazy writing” lines.
But then MI:F seemed to work to the opposite of lazy writing; there were so many things going on, so many impossible stunts and crazy, ante-upping scenes that the writers may still have band-aids on their poor little fingers from typing it all out. I know I was exhausted and all I had to do was sit there munching popcorn.
CRA was definitely not lazy – the writing was crisp, the acting was great, and now I want to go live rich in Singapore – but then the finale of our weekend at the movies adventure came on. Big-ass shark time.
First of all, I enjoyed The Meg more than I thought I would. It delivered on what it promised to be. But the characters were written like someone took a dart board with every possible cliche’, spun it randomly, took 3 shots of tequila, and then threw darts.
Further, there was no reason for the cast to move around in the movie like they did. You want your square-jawed hero to go chase down a mammoth shark? Fine. But there’s no reason the computer expert needs to go along. Or the billionaire who’s paying for the research. Or the dude whose sole job seems to be manipulating the underwater drone the shark destroyed in the first 5 minutes of the movie. The entire cast moved as a unit (station to boat to other boat to yet another boat) for no reason except to be onscreen for comic relief (the black guy, who definitely did NOT sign up for this) or shark chow (see the movie, but it’s who you’d expect).
I too am a lazy writer. My Muse is either drunk most of the time or wants to get back to its Telenovellas, so it often tosses me garbage. Idea for a new story? It’s very likely the most cliche’ thing you’ve ever heard, full of offensive stereotypes (I seriously almost handed in something with an old gypsy curse central to the plot) and at most minimal forethought.
So I send the idea back into the hamster cage that is my brain and tell my Muse to do better. Usually something slightly less offensive comes out (ooh! The gypsy can be a voodoo doctor instead!) and back it goes again.
Eventually, an idea comes out, panting slightly from running on the hamster wheel but usable and – reasonably – inoffensive. That’s when I sit down to write. I still discard a great deal of what goes down on paper (my Muse can be lazy at any time, day or night) but it’s my process to try to avoid the laziest of lazy writing.
As I grow as a writer, I hope the process gets better. Maybe if I take away the Muse’s dartboard and tequila?