Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How We Judge Quality (06/15/16)

How do you make a great movie? A great book? A great song? Most of this may be common sense, but I think writing it out and considering everything will help me and maybe you the reader realize how to make our works better.

For something to be good, there first has to be an assurance that it isn't bad. To choose the best performer on a TV show, you have to get rid of the ones that don't work first before you can get picky.

  • First, the movie, book, or song should make sense. Plot (or any progression of a theme within a song if applicable) should be understandable, interesting, and fitting for the characters. If you spend too much time creating flowery descriptions, your audience will tune you out and be confused when you bring back an important detail because it was hidden by fluff.
  • Second, the characters should be engaging. No one wants to listen to a song in which the narrator is obnoxious and doesn't respect or understand others. (ex. "My boyfriend broke up with me and I don't know why. I was a selfish little girl who made him do everything for me. I can't tell why he didn't like that.") Cookie-cutter characters in a book or movie who are completely flat offer nothing to which the audience can relate or sympathize.
  • Third, the execution of the movie, book, or song must be decent. Scenes in movies should convey what they were made to convey. Messy shots can ruin a movie. Books need to be written with good description that adds to the story instead of taking attention away. Songs should be sung with pitch accuracy and musical ability.
  • Fourth, it has to be unique. If you want to make another break-up song, dystopian movie, or YA fiction novel, there has to be something that sets it apart from the others. There are so many of especially these that have nothing new to offer, which makes your audience already bored unless you twist it in some unique way.
Once you make sure your creation fits the above, creating a masterpiece requires making your work phenomenal. 

Let me illustrate a point. Pick your favorite classical song. If you don't have one, try "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven or "1812 Overture" by Tchaikovsky. Pull it up on YouTube right now, or listen to it in person if you or someone around you is good enough to play the original version. (Yes, that excludes the snippet of Fur Elize in your 5th grade band book or beginner piano lessons.) It will be long, but stick through it at least long enough to get somewhere good. I dare you to listen to all of it.

Chances are, it fits the above requirements. The progression from section to section make sense like mood swings or change dramaticatically like changing plot. Although there aren't really any characters because the music is instrumental (most likely), the changes from scene to scene should keep the open listener engaged. If you hear the song done by professionals, it should be musically accurate in its execution, and the musical elements written into the score exceed that of modern pop music several times over. With classical music, uniqueness isn't much of a problem because these are the originals, yet with "1812 Overture", the inclusion of cannons (literal BOOM cannons, mind you) adds something memorable to the song.

Despite all that, would you rather go to a free concert with an orchestra playing this song or a free concert with your favorite pop star singing another break up song? Professional musicians and classical music fans aside, we prefer our Taylor Swift romance over Bach and Vivaldi (Four Seasons). Why? They meet all the requirements of not being bad, probably more than our pop music.

Audience! 18th century culture would never want to listen to Justin Bieber or even the Beatles because that isn't their culture. Naturally, we like songs from our own time because we can better relate to the short, fast pace of our culture. If you're writing a book to birdwatching enthusiasts, you make it interesting for that audience. The general public doesn't care about the origin of the birds in the trees of your YA fiction, so maybe leave that out and replace it with teenage struggles or mischief.

Here's what I think is the key to amazing works: Make it relatable. If it fits your audience, if your characters experience struggles similar to those that we everyday people can feel ourselves, if you leave parts of yourself behind from where you put your heart into your work (don't take this too literally and put your left ear into your physical piece), your audience will be part of your movie, book, or song and will enjoy your piece all the more. Make the work yours. Make it your character's. Make it your audience's. Make it humanity's.

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