I make no apologies for this post, which will no doubt be a self-obsessed navel-gazing ramble about writing.
I recently finished (after a lot of deliberation and re-writing) a preview/review of the new Makoto Shinkai film “Hoshi no Ou Kodomo” – The review came in at around 1300 words and I felt it was a good reflection of what I wanted to get across in a relatively concise manner.
The review was rated highly – an 8 out of 10, and the text itself implored readers to seek out the film wherever possible (it is currently doing a tour of film festivals and conventions) as I felt the film was well worth anyone’s time, although I did have some caveats to attach to the review.
From this review, I have a small niggling worry about the text – while the positives in the film far outweighed the negatives, I feel I spent the majority of the text pointing out issues and complaints instead. It comes down to a quantity vs Quality problem.
For me, the positive points in Hoshi (I will call it that to save having to type the whole thing) are the broader, larger-scale strokes. The art. The soundtrack. The Characters. The central plot arc. Obviously I want to avoid spoilers, but I still used examples where I could to illustrate and underline my praise. I also feel I used (or tried to use) stronger language for these positive elements to underscore the strength of my feelings on these elements.
My complaints are smaller scale items – imperfections on top of a generally good whole. The issue with these smaller imperfections is that they take an order of magnitude more explaining than the more grand and sweeping topics that made up the positive aspects of the film. One particular example is how I felt that the main character Asuna was somewhat weakened by the way she always ends up tagging along with one male character after another due to plot events – this clashed with her independent personality and weakened her overall.
While I feel these elements are still worthy of being highlighted as they did effect my enjoyment of the film, they simply take a lot more verbiage to fully outline and describe why I consider them a weakness. In this way, I end up bulking out the word count of the piece with negative points, even if they are much less in both number and magnitude than the positive aspects.
So, what to do? I abhor waffle or filler of any kind, and so its unthinkable that i would add more positive aspects in search of some bizarre ideal of word count equilibrium. Besides, that’s dumb. I can’t cut out negative elements in the name of balance as that would be leaving out items that I feel need to be said in a personal record and evaluation of the item. I could possibly cut down the degree of detail in outlining my (minor) complaints, but may weaken the points I am trying to get across. I certainly don’t want to throw a glorified, ungrounded bullet point list at readers, which will be boring to both write and to read.
It has to come down to language – the use of appropriate levels when describing and outlining different elements. Of course, this assumes that the reader actually, y’know, reads the piece as a whole rather than skipping to the end, skimming, or in any other way partially consuming the article. But then, perhaps they can’t be helped, and if that happens a lot then maybe there are grander problems with my writing than some navel-gazing self-doubt blog piece can cover. So in the case of this article, I tried to use stronger language, more superlatives, grander examples when talking about he positives while pointing out the negatives – not in a bland way as such but in a more matter of fact tone to get my caveats across. After all, they still need to be said and, more importantly, to be understood.
I’m going to admit that I only really started to think of this properly in my last edit of the article, when this doubt started to creep in – it was 1am (and the article was late anyway) so I believe I can be forgiven for not immediately setting to re-checking and re-writing the whole article. Maybe. But there is always next time, and every time after that.