Special, Bonus, Extra Features…for writers

Some years ago, our VHS tapes were traded in for DVDs. Do you remember this? Home entertainment changed – No more recording shows on a clunky recorder. No more rewinding or fast forwarding to that funny “whizz whizz” noise. And no more home movies being taped via that huge shoulder-mounted tape recorder that your family owned. Movies and television shows were making the jump to Digital Video Disc. Picture quality was better, sound was smoother – VHS tapes were soon to be obsolete.

Sigh, I think I just had some serious nostalgia….

Well, sweet nostalgia aside, the arrival of DVDs brought another big thing with them: the “bonus disc”. For the science fiction geek, it was the holy grail of movie fandom. The Lord of the Rings was one of the first to cash in on this concept. Not only was there the “regular” DVD, you could also get the DVD with “special features disc”. Three hours of extra footage that included interviews, how the hobbit’s feet were made, and original cut scenes. It was all there. But wait! That’s not all. Some time later, the “Special Extended Edition” disc was released and the Tolkien universe rejoiced. Now you had the movie, the bonus features, and hours more of scenes that extended the experience. Wow, right? The DVD was more than just an upgraded conduit for home entertainment, it was a money-making missile aimed straight at the hearts and imaginations of anyone who wished to be closer to the cinematic experience.

But I won’t rain on the parade. Bonus discs can and do offer some interesting insight to any fan who is willing to pay a little extra. Imagine having the opportunity to find out just what someone was thinking when they filmed that pivotal death scene? Or why the director decided to nix that particular musical score for the climax? The bonus disc allowed for this to happen. Granted, not every question could be answered but the window had been opened.

As a writer, there is no special features disc when it comes to writing books and sharing story. You may get a bonus disc, which we may call a “sequel”, but that’s about it. I found this to be a unique insight; one that a friend of mine brought to light recently. Whenever I share a story with people I know, they give me immediate feedback. Then they may ask me questions. Why did you do this? What were you thinking about there? To which, I can reply and answer. But if you’re writing something for people beyond your social circle, there’s no Q and A time. This may appear to be an obvious concept, but let me extrapolate that further.

You see, stories are interpreted differently from person to person. The visuals created in their head are theirs and theirs alone. But a writer may have a different vision. Or will provide details meant to create that vision. As such, some readers often miss the intimate details of a writer’s vision. Writing is an intimate experience for the writer, but it’s not always as intimate for the reader. Writers provide, readers receive but a reader may miss the point of what the writer is trying to convey altogether. Yes, it does happen. And when that happens, there’s no bonus disc for the reader to dive into and find out what the deal was. It’s up to interpretation – no added interviews, no backstage with the film crew, and certainly no added scene to fill in the gaps. There’s great mystery and excitement in that because let’s face it, you can’t please everyone. But there is little opportunity for interaction if there are still lingering questions or a desire to seek more information.

Well, no worries because now we have blogs. It’s a writer’s very own “special, bonus, extra features” hub for sharing any additional thoughts and comments. Space is available for feedback (should you choose to accept it) and along with that, virtually anyone can pick the brain of the person they enjoy reading. That’s a cool concept, but overwhelming too. It’s something I’ve enjoyed though and I continue to look forward with each new post I make. The same can be said for anyone else’s work I follow or comment on. And what’s more, it’s free. No extra money needed to comment, post, and everything else. Way to go, social media. Nicely done.

Till the next bonus features post then.

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