Setting Expectations: Cowboys and Aliens vs. Killer Elite

Setting Expectations.  As a small business owner and a writer, I have learned the hard way how important it is to set correct expectations.  From explaining exactly what I expect of my staff, to telling my customers what to expect at sales, to correctly describing my writing style, setting expectations correctly can make or break you.  I have hired people on who thought the job would be easy, only to find out that 14 years experience makes it look easy, when it’s not.  I now have every potential employee come in and do the job for a few hours before choosing to hire them to set their expectations and mine.  The business I and my husband own is a set of designer consignment boutiques.  We have worked diligently to help our customers understand we are not thrift stores.  You will never come in and find things for a few dollars.  You can purchase a Louis Vuitton handbag for about half of the original cost.

Now, as a writer, I’m learning about setting the expectation of my reader.  I’m not fond of the term paranormal, but it’s where most readers would put my stories because I have characters who are witches and vampires.  I tend to think of them more as thrillers with a fantastical flare.  But, if I want to find readers, I’m going to have to communicate in a way which sets their expectations correctly.

I experienced a great example of this last week when I celebrated my 32 birthday!  Go me!  When my hubby asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I wanted a cheesy movie night.  That means renting cheesy action flicks, buying wine and cheese, and stuffing ourselves with great movies and food.  I chose Cowboys and Aliens and Killer Elite.  I was very excited about both films.  I walked away happy with one and disappointed with the other.  I blame my disappointment on bad expectation setting.

Cowboys and Aliens was exactly what the previews led me to believe.  Cowboys and Aliens.  Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford both played their parts with their usual charisma.  I loved it.  It was cheesy, silly, well-done, and balanced all the action and drama just right.  You would never go into this movie expecting the next Shawshank Redemption.  You went into it expecting cheese.  It delivered.

Killer Elite.  Groan.  When you put Jason Stathem and Clive Owen in a film, I’m so there.  It promises action out the wazoo!  The previews confirmed this assumption with plenty of scenes of the two duking it out.  I was very excited to see this movie because I chalk my rediscovery of action flicks to Jason Stathem’s first Transporter movie.  He rarely fails to deliver.  I also tend to enjoy Clive Owen’s films and his ability to play a morose anti-hero you can’t help but love.

Killer Elite was not a cheesy action flick.  In fact, it was a political thriller.  The kind you have to pay super close attention to when you watch it cause most characters don’t have names and you need to recognize someone 45 minutes later after only seeing him once.  There are lots of names, faces, and facts to keep together and all of them introduced fast and not knitted together until near the end of the film.  I  also felt like the pacing was a bit off.  Long moments of nothing were you had to really listen, broken up with the expected and anticipated fight scenes between Stathem and Owen.  Not Cheesy.

Looking back on the two films, I am sure Killer Elite was the better, or more worthwhile film.  But, I was disappointed when  I saw it.  I felt like my expectations, based on the previews, had been mislead.  I felt like they should have worked the previews with less action and more talking so I knew I was getting into a political thriller when I started the film.  I would have eaten less cheese and drunk less wine, so I could pay attention.  The only good part came when I did some reasearch and found out Killer Elite was based on a book called the Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.  After reading the sample, I purchased it for my Kindle right away.  It starts out swinging and doesn’t stop.  I’m really enjoying it, but then again, I knew what I was getting into when I started it.

When I finish, I’ll let you know what I think.

Looking for cheese, I will pick Cowboys and Aliens over Killer Elite.  The movie delivered exactly what it promised.  And, once again, I have learned the valuable lesson of expectation setting and hope to learn how to do it better myself!  First, I better overcome my personal hurdle of my work being paranormal/urban fantasy…

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