On Learning From Other Creators

A bit of advice commonly given to authors is that we should take a break from writing to read, on the presumption we’ll learn something useful.

But that’s never worked for me. I don’t want someone else’s story in my head when I’m writing, and breaks are taken for the purpose of moving around, not sitting. Aside from that, I rarely come across entertainment that captures my interest.

A brief exception was the Netflix series ‘The OA’, promoted as ‘An American mystery drama television series with science fiction, supernatural, and fantasy elements.’

I found the opening acts thoughtful and full of heart — qualities I reach for in my own storytelling. It’s a beautifully photographed production. Dialogue is evocative, portrayals authentic. All of this kept me going until the fourth episode, after which I gave up.

As did many others. In an essay on Looper.com, media analyst Phil Archbold deconstructs the series’ perceived shortcomings, its failure to meet viewership goals and ultimate cancellation. I’m sure it’s a letdown for the creators, but The OA won an ardent following, and advanced the careers of everyone involved. I’d call that success.

I liked the show, but it wore me out. Although I cannot point to a review that explicitly agrees, I suspect there were two primary reasons the ship went down — intervals between story arc payoffs were overlong, and release of tension too infrequent. For me, binge-watching was out of the question.

There was also an overabundance of dysfunctional main characters, perhaps more of a personal grievance. In my view, crippling the heroine is a lazy way to grant the antagonist enough power to defeat her. It makes me shout at the television.

I didn’t learn anything new, but I’m reminded of storytelling principles that deserve to be taken seriously. And I was entertained, enough to make watching the show a worthwhile experience.

Did you watch The OA? What did you think? Tell me in the comments.

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