Posted December 25, 2013on:
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
But in case you’re looking for something else to do, here I am. I did my classic Christmas film watching yesterday, with Die Hard, so today I saw some other things. In particular I watched the first Hulk movie, by Ang Lee, an underappreciated little gem in my opinion. I very much like the visual effects, the way they slid panels around to indicate collective viewpoints on a single scene, or motion from one point to another. Really good stuff there. I also liked the way they tied the Hulk issue to his psychological problems with his father. Certainly the way they had the Hulk come about was so unlikely that some sort of determinism had to be at work. I have some vague feeling that at some point it was stated that someone was in fact manipulating Bruce’s choice of career, specifically to get him into his father’s footsteps, but now I don’t know where I saw that.
One thing I wasn’t so appreciative of was an early scene, where Bruce and Betty meet in a hallway for the first time on screen. She starts out talking about a presentation they have to do, which almost instantly becomes a pointed barb about his inability to respond emotionally. She apologizes, and them almost immediately shoots a second arrow his way. This insanely OOC cluster of dialog, very much in the ‘tell, don’t show’ mode that we are cautioned to avoid, is then followed by the nefarious word, ‘anyway.’
I feel like that literature professor in Stranger Than Fiction, who says he taught whole classes on ‘little did he know’. In my case it would be the word ‘anyway’. This word, to me, usually signifies that the author wrote himself into a dead end and had to jump-start his dialog, which is bad enough. But worse, I find in many cases the reason he painted himself into that corner was something stupid. He wanted, e.g., to hit us with dialog that serves little purpose to the story, but instead is some ideological nut-point, badly told bit of uncomfortable humor, or a patch-job meant to cover up something missing, such as a deleted scene that would have presented the same information in a much more organic sort of way.
This train wreck, once the smoke clears, is then followed by the word ‘anyway’, to draw the curtain on the whole thing and move the story along to the next actual plot-point. This movie is neither the first instance of it that I’ve seen, or the most egregious. Off the top of my head, the one that most immediately comes to mind is a scene from a Jack Chalker novel. One character says, “I must remember to spend more time among thieves and politicians”, to which another character responds with the conversation-killing bit of wit, “There’s a difference?”, followed by, “Anyway, let’s go over our plans to…” which brings the story back to the thread it should have been following all along. (There are quite a few problems with this series, but the others will wait.)
I’m not saying that such words are useless, but the use of them should be monitored carefully, since they indicate a radical discontinuity in the flow of the dialog that cannot help but jerk the reader out of it. Are there any words that you find a s a reader that have that effect on you, or that you consciously avoid as an author?