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Writer Arrogance

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by srebak, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    Has anyone else ever had one of those times where you're watching a Tv show or movie, then start to put thought into the story and think to yourself "I could have done better"? I've had many of those moments, and i've started to call this feeling "Writer Arrogance", because i think that i'm being a bit arrogant for thinking that i can do better than professionals.

    However, the funny thing is, J.R.R. Tolkien probably suffered from this when he created Middle-Earth; he admired the mythology of other countries and thought that he could create on for England. Just saying

    Any thoughts on any of this?
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    To quote Gene Wolfe:

    This is how I write most of my stories, too. I often encounter stories that seem to parallel each other with opposite messages, such that reading or watching them both is a much more complete experience than consuming them alone (like Lord of the Flies and Bless the Beasts and Children, or V for Vendetta and Psycho-Pass.) I often try to write my own parallels to stories whose message I disagree with--not to prove I'm right, but just to give an alternate perspective.

    As for actually thinking I could write better than the author, that tends to happen to me when playing '90s video games. (I swear, some people in the gaming industry back then had no clue how to write dialogue.) It doesn't happen to me often with books or movies, though--in general, when an author has a different style than me and isn't complete rubbish, I give them some credit for writing in a way I wouldn't or couldn't have written.
  3. teacup

    teacup Auror

    Honestly the thing that first made me sit down and start writing was just this. I think it was the Inheritance Cycle I did it to.
    Though I have a low opinion of the series, it was still arrogant of me to think that, when I hadn't ever written a thing. But maybe if I wasn't being so arrogant I would never have actually sat down and started something. I'm on draft 3 of my first novel now, and I owe it all to being an arrogant little swine.

    Maybe arrogance ain't so bad ;)
  4. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    I've definitely had instances when I was reading a book or watching a movie, and I was so dissatisfied with how the subject matter was presented that I wanted to write or draw my own version that was more to my liking.

    Take the Clash of the Titans movies for instance. Those are supposed to be adaptations of the Greek myths of Perseus. However, when doing my own research on the Perseus mythos, I found out that not only did he visit this African country called Aethiopia ("land of the burnt faces") which most likely corresponded to the Sudan (or Kush), but his love interest Andromeda came from there. This was the same Andromeda whom the movies portrayed as a lily-white blonde! I was pissed off as hell that the filmmakers omitted these African themes and wanted to write or draw my own version of the myth that re-incorporated them.
  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

    I specifically started my series because there wasn't anything like it at the time. I had boxed and fenced and didn't know much about much but I knew that Dragonlance wasn't nearly edgy enough for me but Glory Road was on to something. I sat down to write a "portal fantasy" series -- modern man in a fantasy setting -- that would do for swords and mail what Tom Clancy did for nuclear submarines.

    25 years later, there still isn't anything that I've found that quite does what I intend to do, or at least does it as well as I intend to do it. And after going-on-three decades of boxing, fencing, stunt work, sword-nerdery, real-life military combat experience, research, consulting, and writing, I finally know enough about my subject matter and write well enough to build the series I wanted to write in the first place, all those years ago. One of my beta readers referred to my first book as "A Connecticut Yankee in Westeros," so I think I'm on the right track.

    There's a lesson in here somewhere and I think it's this: You can do as well as, or better than, the professionals. But you probably can't do it right away.

    Give 'em hell.
    Shreddies and A. E. Lowan like this.
  6. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    Almost every single time. Because most of the stuff out there is crap. If that makes me arrogant, so be it.
    Malik likes this.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Yeah, I do, but here's the thing I've learned. It's easy to see the errors here and there in someone else's work and see obvious fixes. But it's infinitely harder to come up with something yourself and not make similar if not greater errors.

    We can see the errors, but do we see how much more they're doing right? It's like someone designing a car from scratch. It runs but there's a big flaw in the fuel injector. When someone sees it they say what a piece of crap car. That fuel injector is absolutely horrendous. If only they did this and that, the fuel injector would be perfect and the car would be awesome. I could design a better car.

    Do you see the slight flaw in that? First the original designer had to design the whole car not just the fuel injector. The bystander only had to focus their attention on the fuel injector, ignoring all the awesomeness and support around it that made the car function. If the bystander had to build the car from scratch, they wouldn't even know where to begin.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  8. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Penpilot has a valid point... it is a lot easier to tweak something and improve on it that to build it from scratch.
    so I try to turn it around and think about what I liked about their writing.
    I watch[ed] a lot of detective shows and they are all basically the same plot...
    Crime ... 1st suspect ... 2nd suspect ... 3rd suspect ... vital information ... arrest 2nd suspect.
    So what changes to the formula are making me watch? That's what I look for.
  9. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    That's where my WIP came from. Like Damon Knight in the quote Feo posted, a TV show bugged me because it failed to deal with a particular issue appropriately and just sort of skimmed over it for the sake of other elements of the plot, and that annoyed me, so I started writing a fanfic about it and gradually that changed and certain bits became unimportant to the core theme and I found a setting it fit for and bam, there's my WIP. I was writing that fanfic for four years before I even tried to adapt the story of it for original fic (by then it was far enough from the TV series anyway) and it took about six tries to get the setting right and for it to click what was most important about the story I wanted to tell and thus drop anything that was superfluous to it, but I got there.
  10. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    I don't so much think: I could have done better. It's more that I am frequently disappointed by a story seeming to promise a particular path...and then not going there. Or having no idea how to finish what they started. That happens a lot.

    I will however repeat here what I said on a different thread... I know a fairly high profile director in Australia, and the first time I met him I casually mentioned how much film/TV writing was total crap. His response was as follows: You know...I've read numerous scripts that started out brilliantly but were then destroyed by producers who thought they knew better.

    The point being, don't kid yourself that most professional writers are crap. They're not. But not many great scripts survive unmolested through the redraft, shooting and editing process.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  11. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    I have this tendency to see great potential in other people's series and be disappointed with the way they have it turn out instead. There are almost no longer series where I really like the ending, because it hardly ever matches my exaggerated expectations.
    I usually tend to respect other people's works though and don't think I could have done it better. After following many threads about writing theory on forums like this one, I often can't help mentally making red lines beneath all the "writing mistakes" I see in published books. (Overly long description, useless parts, cheap ways of creating tension and so on...) Recently, I've read a trilogy where the entire second book could have been cut out without much loss. (But the author/publisher seemingly thought they needed a trilogy.)
    In such cases I do wonder where the idea that publishing a book traditionally requires so much work and perfection actually comes from. Those mysterious criteria often must be found somewhere else. Maybe luck and what we call "Vitamin B" aka connections to the right people matter more.
  12. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    This reminds me of this Robot chicken skit.

    Yeah, I read this script writing book that had what they called "The Promise of the Premise." Basically know what you're promising the audience and fulfil that promise. Otherwise they'll feel like they've been cheated. Anybody ever watch a trailer which promises one type of movie and then have real movie be something completely different?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  13. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    It's not arrogance to be dissatisfied with how a story unfolds and want to do it right - i.e. assuming it was done wrong. Doing it "better" is something else. We are all individuals and all have our own views about how a story should go. For my part I'd want to rewrite the endings to Star Trek Voyager (because it breaks the temporal prime directive and because I have a far more interesting (to me) way that it should have gone), and to Enterprise (because it flat out sucked!) That's just personal taste.

    Cheers, Greg.
  14. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    An example of what I meant before...the third HBO series of Game of Thrones. And I mean the TV series because I'm probably the only person here who's not read the books. Consider the Journey of Jon Snow. He started by chasing the girl and getting caught up in the world beyond the wall, with all that portended, and look at how it finished up. What has he learned, how has he changed, where is he going? IMHO he's pretty much back to where he was at the start of Series Three. I felt quite let down by that and thought: so what? He and she were two of my favourite characters also. (No spoilers thank you.)
  15. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Not quite. He was looking to start filling a hole, not correct someone else's work, which is different. Furthermore, by the time he wrote about the idea in the famous letter he also says that he had long since abandoned it. For some reason everyone likes to clamp onto the "Tolkien wanted to make a mythology for England" part and leave off the "when he was young, but he eventually realized that it might be a bit presumptuous and abandoned the idea" part. By the time he was writing and publishing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he had no such intentions anymore.

    I think being dissatisfied with something that we read or watch and writing something to either fill in gaps or correct something we didn't like is good practice for writers. I don't think it's necessarily arrogant, though of course I'm sure it can be done out of arrogance. It's not much different than reading or watching something that inspires your imagination and writing new ideas that are founded in something else.
    Malik likes this.
  16. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I think reading inspires writing.
    You like a work, but "what if"... new story is created.
    You dislike a work, but write something close but tell it like it should have been told, new story created.

    You call it arrogance, I call it creativity.
    We see a story and say why...we create a story and say why not?
    The nature of the beast.

    Personally, the only time I think I could write a better story is in a less then "C"movie that really a sixth grader could have probably written better.
    When I like a story, I look at what I like and then find someplace to include it in my works. Not whole scenerios, but their idea or basis for an encounter.
  17. Writers arrogance?? what's this?

    It is obviously something that those who are far below me (So everybody) get. I am way to good to be arrogant, I know that I am the best, and this isn't boast, it is true, so I obviously cant be arrogant!!!!

    In fact, I would say that those who lack my skills are arrogant, they think that they are good, whereas I know that I am! I always know that I could write better TV and movie scripts than everybody, but this is just fact. Like the dude who came up with the idea for Game of Thrones.... I could so that in my sleep, that's amateur level work.

    I wrote better books when I was 3 than the ones I read at the moment.

    Mwhahahaha :)
  18. duagre

    duagre New Member

    I have always felt I could do a good rewrite on some of these TV shows and films. A lot of the time I would watch them and come up with numerous potentially better story-line directions using their template, but the truth is more often than not, the original idea probably would have never come to me. Sometimes that's just because it's an area or genre outside of what I would normally approach. But as another poster said already, it can be much easier to fix things in somebody else's plot than it is to spark that idea from scratch yourself.

    There's also that sort of punk rock attitude though, where you look at some substandard stuff that's out-there already and successful, and you think: "well, I can't be any worse that that".

    I find that the reverse to be true when I read or view a piece by a writer I admire. I tend to come out of it thinking that I could never have even gotten close to what they were able to drum up.
  19. solas

    solas Scribe

    Most movies, whether based on a fictional work, factual or mythological get it wrong, wrong wrong! This is why I watch very little of the crap.
  20. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Could you define what you mean by wrong?

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