January 18, 2011

Life is badly edited

We’ve all had the misfortune to sit through a “director’s cut” of a film, where a self-indulgent egotist, in love with every frame, bores us to tears with the extra half-hour bloat that escaped the scissors. Yes, lots of us saw Avatar.

Real life is, however, worse. Our unfolding biographies have too many story threads, characters who come and go, motives mysterious and chapters that galumph on and on. No neat endings. Chekhov’s gun unfired. Pointless dialog. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

It’s a mark of maturity, we believe, to recognize this, to admit that life is messy, and to remain steady in the face of chaos. It’s also incumbent on us as storytellers to recognize the need to be the opposite: coherent, clear, crisp.