With the end of Westworld last week, people went about the regular rounds of either lauding or critiquing the series. A number of writers, one of the biggest groups that I tend to run in, started to become concerned about the tendency for some of our number to nitpick, to try and do everything they could to dismantle Westworld, like it was some sort of false idol that needed to be brought down.
There’s a tendency among writers to try to take things apart, especially stories. Like those young children destined to become engineers, we like to tear things down, pull the pieces apart, and carefully sniff at the pieces. If you want to be a successful writer, I think this is a necessary skill. My personal jury is still out on whether the obsessive way of doing it that some of us evidence is a boon or not.
This isn’t helped, by the by, with the current system of reviews and media. A negative headline is going to get a lot more engagement, even if it is people reading it to purposefully get angry, than a positive and banal one. Human nature, such as it can be determined, coupled with the current economic incentives have created a system for media that I’m not particularly thrilled with.
When writers get together and start to try to deconstruct a story, that’s them developing their skills. Though there is that famous quote about deconstructing stories leaving us with what is functionally a dead cat, it forgets that this is important for us to learn more about the craft of writing. When writers obsessively try to figure out the twist in advance, when we pull stories apart, that is us figuring them out, and working on their craft.
There’s a sense that criticizing something is a demonstration that we don’t like it. My own family doesn’t understand my obsessive deconstruction of the Harry Potter universe, and suggests that I’m ruining it. Trying to figure out deeper meaning, trying to determine if something was purposeful or not, trying to determine the structure of how a story is built is part of how I understand and appreciate it.
So, whether you think that the ending to Westworld was out of nowhere or not, it isn’t a personal affront. A number of writer’s I’ve seen have gotten into that tendency of backing into their corner and getting their hackles up every time there is disagreement.
For what its worth, I missed the big twist about the Man in Black because I thought it was too obvious, but that doesn’t detract from the overall arch of the story. I still enjoyed it, even seeing the moving parts.