Lessons from Zoom

Wiggly feet kicked against the back of seats. Popcorn cascaded from little hands to dust the carpeted floor. The movie was ten minutes late starting, and the house was packed.

Not because it was a great movie. Because it was free.

Every summer the girls and I partake of the Free Family Fun Movie Festivals. They occur at many theaters around town–we go to Westgate every Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday at 10 a.m. They show two movies each week, a G and a PG.

Today we saw Zoom. Despite a good cast (Chevy Case, Courtney Cox, Tim Allen) the movie was dismal. Poor plotting, hitching pace, dropped storylines, ridiculous characterizations. Wretched.

But girls like the big screen and it helps break up our long days together. Watching the movie as I work on the third draft of my novel, however, was a lesson in what not to do. Single story arcs don’t work. People want complexity. Flat characters are not believeable. They must have dimension. If you have a surprise along the way, it must be clever so that if you watch the movie again, you see it was there all along.
Zoom did none of these, but watching it made me see where my novel also sagged or relied upon cliche.

I try to avoid bad examples as I write, throwing down any book that falters lest I accidentally mimic style or other errors. But wiling away a summer day in an air conditioned theater with two girls already sick of each other and mama, it was a nice lesson in how not to screw up my book.

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