Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Warning: Too Stupid to Live

So I’ve been thinking a little about movies and some of the stuff writers can learn from them. Disclaimer: There is SO much that correlates between screenwriting and writing novels that I promise I will make barely a tiny scratch on the surface. For one thing, I’ve learned to make sure you don’t leave things in your stories that are “too stupid to live” (phrase stolen from Holly Lisle).

What do I mean by "too stupid to live?" Unfortunately for the Transformers franchise, those movies are front and center in my example.

My hubby has been working insane hours the last 8 months, but the last month in particular. That means we haven’t seen many of the newer movies. (Not even Harry Potter. Oh, the humanity!) One of the summer movies that my boy kidlets really want to see is “Transformers 3,” which, according to all their friends who have seen it, is “nothing but 2 ½ hours of action and blowing stuff up.” Yes, 11 and 13 year-old boys are real movie connoisseurs. The hubby and I missed “Transformers 2” when it came around (partly because we were busy and partly because we heard it was as bad – or worse – than “GI Joe,” which made me lose IQ points when I watched it) and we noticed it was back at Red Box, so we decided to give it a shot.

Let me clear something up before I lose your respect: I did not finish the movie. I figured I lost enough brain cells giving birth to three children to voluntarily give away IQ points.

“Transformers 2” was riddled with bad dialogue, overt and gratuitous innuendo that was in really bad taste, and a whole bunch of “too stupid to live” examples. It did have giant, kick-butt space robots, but even the cool factor couldn’t override the other stuff. Here’s just one example of “too stupid to live.”

Sam goes to his first astronomy class and pulls a “Beautiful Mind” stunt. He runs back to his dorm, freaking out, and calls his girlfriend (biting my tongue on the stupidity involved in that relationship/dialogue/casting) on the way. She says she’ll catch a plane and be there that afternoon. Sam starts writing symbols all over the walls of his dorm, and his roommate, who was in astronomy, shows up after class (classes last about an hour – I’ve been to college) to check on him. Also with roommate is psycho hot chick who is really a space robot in disguise. Hot robot chick throws herself at Sam (literally), and his girlfriend walks in on them kissing.

Now, the time frame from “Beautiful Mind” freak out to girlfriend catching Sam is probably around an hour. Heck, I’ll give it two hours just to be nice. Ummm… Last time I went to the airport it took me at least an hour to GET THROUGH SECURITY. There is no way in this day and age that the girlfriend could pack, buy a ticket, go through security (not to mention get a box with tiny space robot with an accent and street slang - hello, more stupid – through security in the first place), get on a plane, get off the plane, pick up baggage, catch a cab to the college, find the right dorm building and Sam’s room, and walk in on hot robot chick kissing Sam in TWO HOURS!

*beating head on wall*

This is not the reaction you want your readers to have when reading one of your books. This is the sort of thing that gets books thrown across the room at my house. (Or if you spend 4 books building up to a vampire smack-down and then having the two armies agree to disagree and walk off. The book gets thrown and yelled at if you do that. Name the series, anyone?)

Moral of this blog post: Avoid “too stupid to live” mistakes in your writing at all costs. Or make sure your books have really soft covers so they don’t hurt anyone when they are used as projectiles.

Anyone else want to share in my rant? Other "too stupid to live" examples are welcome!


Stephanie McGee said...


Um, pretty much any girl who falls for the wicked hot bad boy despite one or both wanting to kill the other.

Or the girl choosing the bad boy over the one who is perfect for her, who's never hurt her or made her feel like she's worthless.

I like characters who can take care of themselves but no when they need help from others. There's this show I watch, Haven. In one episode, one of the two men (yes, there's a bit of a triangle), asks the MC (who is a woman) if she has a plan. She jokes that she doesn't need a plan because she has him.

Now, this would seem TSTL if not for the fact that we've seen her time and again figure out what needs to be done and actually do it herself.

Angie said...

I didn't bother watching Transformers. My husband filled me in on all the too-stupid-to-live moments from the first one. Hate that! I really hope I'm not putting them in my stories!

I thought the Percy Jackson movie was riddled with those moments.

Heather Justesen said...

There are advantages to not having to watch kids' movies. Things like this drive me completely batty.

Julie Daines said...

The problem with being a writer, especially one that also does a lot of critiquing and workshops, is that it taints my ability to sit back and enjoy a book or movie. I can't get the internal editor to shut up.

My book group recently read a great book, one that everyone should read for it's historical value, and they loved it. I could barely muscle my way through all the head-hopping, the nauseating dialogue, and the complete lack of POV through some sections. But when I pointed this out to the ladies, they looked at me like I was crazy.

Sigh... I miss the days when I could just sit back and enjoy the show...

Melissa J. Cunningham said...

LOVED your account of Transformers. My hubby and I have a private joke about that one. He hopes that girl is in every movie we see . . . running. But you are completely accurate! SO stupid . . . except for that running. Of course, I told my boys they weren't allowed to see it. All because of . . . yes, the running.