It happens to all of us from time to time, we read a bad book or watch a movie that fails to live up to our expectations. I used to grumble about the wasted time for a little while and then promptly forget about the book or movie. (I have a couple notable exceptions where it was so bad I’ve turned the event into a badge of honor. I’ll reference a day of moon related movies for those who have heard my story.)
However, as a writer, I am no longer so quick to put the bad experience from my mind. Instead, I have been taking that grumbling time to think about what was wrong with the movie or book and look at the mechanics of why it failed. I’m not referring to bad acting, but to actual story issues. Perhaps the dialogue lacked substance or seemed forced. Perhaps the holes in the plot were so large a small moon could have flown through it. Sometimes it is the pacing that feels off; both in the intensity of activity from scene to scene or when my suspension of disbelief crumbles because what should have occurred over days or weeks in the story, happened in minutes.
In doing this, I will not only identify the issues I felt existed, but also think about what might have led to those problems. Perhaps large parts of the original story were cut to keep the length down, but in doing so, do I see anyways they could have fixed the issues to keep the story engaging and enjoyable? Were the characters flat because I could not identify with the character motivation? Did the story have incredible levels of technical detail for certain parts, then make illogical jumps in other parts (or simply invalid statements about the technology)? Did the technology/magic behave in a consistent manner? I have been doing this post movie/book analysis for a while, even when it is a movie or book I really enjoyed.
For any aspiring writers, I suggest that you also take the time for this thought exercise to improve your writing. We can improve our own craft from looking at others, both when they do it right as well as when they do it wrong. And importantly, I feel less like I wasted several hours of my life if I can claim it was a learning experience.