Just Say it, Already!

Cellular Culture: Let’s talk…Originally uploaded by sirchuckles
Grr. I’ve griped about this before, but it’s time to gripe about it again: contrived non-communication in movies and fiction.
We watched THE NATURAL last night. I remember liking this movie quite a bit when it first came out. I still like it. Great story. But my pet peeve was much in evidence: Silly non-communication. Painfully silly.
In case you don’t recall the subplot, the Glen Close and Robert Redford characters were boyfriend and girlfriend when they were young. Then Redford was shot and dropped off the planet for a long time. Now they meet up sixteen years later. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Close’s teenage son is Redford’s, but that’s not my complaint. At least 121408037_a821e12f31_m[1].jpgthree times in the movie, they talk with one another and before the truth can be revealed one of them will say, “I’ve gotta go,” for no apparent reason (except that the secret of the son’s paternity needed to be kept until the dramatic last scene.)
Now, I agree the secret needed to be kept until the end, but the “I’ve gotta go” device is incredibly lame. One of the things I learned as a novice fiction writer is that if the conflict between two characters can be resolved with a simple conversation, it’s not a good enough conflict to keep the story (and suspense) going. This makes writing that much harder, because non-communication is such a convenient way to keep things rolling for many, many pages. And it can work if the reasons for the lack of communication are strong and believable. If the Close and Redford characters had no time to talk, for example. That could work. But they had plenty of time and by the third “gotta go,” I was groaning.
So if you’re a writer, remember to make your conflicts complex and not easy to resolve. And if you’re a reader (or movie fan), take more pity on the poor writer than I have here. It’s hard to keep the suspense going without resorting to “gotta go.” But it’s worth the effort in the end.


  1. Trina Allen on September 5, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    I love your title here, JUST SAY IT, ALREADY! The picture of the cell phones is perfect for this issue. I remember watching THE NATURAL and not being ecstatic about it when many of my friends were. You’ve hit upon what was bugging me — I couldn’t put my finger on it. Lack of communication. I’m wondering now about other movies that I’ve had a similar reaction to: FIELD OF DREAMS and LOST IN TRANSLATION. Both left me flat when others rave about them. I may have to watch them again to see if non-communication is the issue.
    I’m certainly going to pay more attention to the conflicts and possible non-communication in my own writing.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on September 5, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Trina, I hope your writing is going well!
    John, by the way, disagrees with me regarding the communication in THE NATURAL. He says both people have been hurt and are afraid of being hurt again, so they are afraid to reveal the truth to one another. He did make me feel more sympathetic toward them, but I still contend that there are more elegant ways of keeping secrets than the old “gotta go” (and “you’d better go”) stand bys.

  3. Margo on September 6, 2007 at 8:35 am

    I remember watching THE NATURAL many yrs ago and really liking it…funny, but I don’t remember the ‘gotta go’ phrases. Diane, I had to laugh at your comment ‘it doesn’t take a rocket scientist’…one of Gary’s fav remarks. (-:

  4. Diane Chamberlain on September 6, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Margo, I didn’t remember the “gotta go”s either. It’s such a good film. Maybe I’m just being too picky. . .

  5. brenda on September 6, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    just a comment as I grade papers at the college…waiting for class…I did not like THE NATURAL or FIELD OF DREAMS for the reasons listed above-sorry…I am way too picky when it comes to movies-give me STEEL MAGNOLIAS, GREASE, GONE WITH THE WIND, etc. etc. EMOTION…FUN…and of course…psycho thrillers…if you have not seen COPYCAT…whew…

  6. Diane Chamberlain on September 6, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    lol, brenda! GONE WITH THE WIND and psycho thrillers in the same breath!

  7. Krysia on September 7, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I can honestly say I’ve never heard of The Natural. But I completely understand on the say it already. Working in retail I sometimes just want to yell say it already for crying out loud I don’t have all day. I went to Room 1408 the other night, let me just say don’t waste your money. It was horrible and completely predictable. I thought it was supposed to be scary, I fell asleep and so did one of the girls I went with.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on September 7, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Krysia, I think The Natural was before your time. Thanks for the heads up on Room 1408, though I don’t do scary anyhow. Except for the ghosts at the Weymouth House. LOL.

  9. Krysia on September 7, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    I was alive, just not very old (Looked it up LOL). Saw the new Halloween tonight, it was friggin awesome. It wasn’t scary to me, but was a pretty good slasher movie. But then again I’ve been watching scary movies since I was 3, and was the only one in my cousins that didn’t get scared to MJ’s Thriller.

  10. brenda on September 10, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Have to tell all of you that Krysia was so kind to send me that book of Diane’s. I devoured it, of course. Krysia-how kind of you…thanks…

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