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Documenting my odyssey into the wonderful world of fantasy writing and beyond. Can't promise I will always be on topic as the world is vast and full of such wonderous, and sometimes terrible, distractions. Email me: cassandra.jade.author@gmail.com

16 June, 2009

The 'And Then This Happened' Approach to Writing

Those following me on twitter will probably remember that I saw 'Land of the Lost' on the weekend and was somewhat less than impressed with it. To be perfectly honest I hated it, and I probably would have walked out if not for the fact that I had bought a frozen coke and it would have been a waste.

My problem with 'Land of the Lost' is the same as the problem I have when I read a lot of drafts for stories. Instead of some sort of plan or cohesive idea that is explored within the text, one random event after another is squished together, pasted and held by improbability, and linked only by chance.

Caution - spoilers ahead.

For instance, early in the movie, Will Ferrell's character meets a young scientist who respects his theories and inspires him to get on with inventing the time travelling device. Fair enough. She found out about him at college and tracked him down. No problem believing that.

Then she returns the next day to find him in a sugar coma. After his response to her the day before, why she returns is never adequately explained, but fair enough. She decides to have a second go and there she is.

They travel into an alternate dimension, by means of a waterfall, which makes no apparent sense (but there have been worse ways to travel between worlds so I will let it go), somehow they survive and are now stumbling through a desert (what happened to the waterfall) where they encounter a group of ape people sacrificing another ape person.

After saving the sacrifice they then chase him, to fall through a pit of sand to land upon a pile of bones. Lots of falling and landing in random places without any real point or link, other then the writers decided they were bored with the old set and couldn't be bothered writing some kind of transition.

And on it goes.

The part that made me want to walk out was when the writers clearly decided the bit with the dinosaur was getting old, and suddenly our 'hero' receives a psychic message from an injured lizard man in a tunic seeking help.

This is very much akin to dropping a clown from the sky and saying 'ah-ha, the story goes this way' and waving your arms vigorously in front of the audience and hoping they are too caught up with that 'wacky' gags to care, only we aren't because the script is flat, the acting mediocre and the best performance is delivered by a computer generated t-rex.

Now, I don't expect a lot of story from a comedy. A loose sketch of characters in a basic setting with a barely plausible context will usually do, as long as it keeps heading in some sort of coherent direction.

Incidentally, foreshadowing is an important writing technique. 'Land of the Lost' demonstrates how not to use it, with their "If you don't make it - it's your own damn vault" poster at the beginning of the movie, and the line used during the confrontation with the T-rex. This is not foreshadowing, this is a desperate attempt for the writers to remind us that at some stage in the story, there was a point to all the ridiculousness.

As far as cheap laughs, the movie does have them, but that is about the only thing I found to recommend it.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not surprised at all that it was a waste of time. The original TV show (while cheesy) was enjoyable. I used to really enjoy Will Ferrell's humor, but anymore it is just pointless and ignorant. I don't know if he is writing his own stuff at this point or just being handed something from other writers, but I'm unimpressed. Shows like this one are actually painful to the intellect, but in a world where Jerry Springer is watched (and enjoyed) by the masses, I guess we can't expect much. Okay, I'll step off my soapbox now.

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  2. I think you've pretty much summed up the reasons I hardly ever watch comedies. They're just... pointless. No plot, no heart, no point, no thanks. Guess I'll be saving my money on this one. Although the frozen Coke does sound good!

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