It's enough already - Shawn Loughlin editorial
As humans, we always celebrate effort. Seeing someone give it their all, even if the results don’t quite pan out, is always something that we appreciate. So, despite things not working out, you can know, at least, that you did everything you could.
Sometimes, however, it’s definitely possible to do too much. If you put too much effort forth, what happens then?
This occurred to me recently when Jess and I were watching a murder mystery miniseries on TV. It was very successful, full of great performances, direction and writing. However, once it ended, Jess and I turned to each other and (how to make this sound as non-snobby as possible?) took the words right out of each other’s mouths that it was a bit much.
The series succumbed to that classic murder mystery pitfall of one too many twists.
Not to sound reductive, because the show was very good, but there is a certain formula to these kinds of stories. The writer and director need to pepper the landscape with a number of potential suspects, giving the audience plenty of reasons to think Person A or Person B might have killed Person X, complete with motives and benefits. As the series moves along, the suspects are all stripped away but one, clearly leaving the audience with their killer (unless you’re watching Twin Peaks, but that’s another column for another day). But, of course, it’s no fun if audience members can pick out the killer in the first episode, so the writer and director need to keep the audience guessing, throwing curveball after curveball.
However, in my opinion, the creators of this show took it one step too far. In an effort to really shock us, the creators, sitting on a suitable conclusion, threw in one last twist that, frankly, didn’t work. As a result, the whole thing gets nudged, ever so slightly, off of its pedestal. It’s a fine line between the right amount of shock and going too far.
In the sports world, Denny and I have talked about this before. With him as a Montreal Canadiens fan and me as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, the topic of hockey has crossed our desks before. And, while I’m certainly no hockey expert, I always thought that the young, hotshot Leaf squad is always wanting to be on Sportscentre with a beautiful goal, rather than taking the opportunities that are in front of them. This, I would contend, results in the team often making one pass too many, squandering the good chance it had for a shot at a great one. Again, doing too much.
I was guilty of this the other night (certainly not for the first time) as I cooked dinner. I branched out from my usual weekly fare and made pasta al limone, a cream-and-butter sauce brightened up with lemon zest and juice. The sauce is very simple. It just requires a bit of timing and... salt. A lot of salt. Reading the recipe I was following, it said that, between the fat of the cream and butter and the acidity of the lemon, I would likely have to use more salt than I’d think to balance everything out.
The recipe didn’t need to tell me twice, so I wore out my wrist salting the sauce, only to get to the end and decide it needed one last hit of salt. That was all it took. Jess and I only made it about halfway through before we had to hydrate our lips and guzzle water, lest we wake up in the night coughing up dust.
As an editor and a writer, I know that often the most important stroke you can make on the keyboard can be to delete something. Self-editing is a difficult skill that few possess, but while throwing everything and the kitchen sink out there may show plenty of effort, your end product may end up a bit flabby.