Inconsistent Plot Outline Correction Approval

  • 1
  • Question
  • Updated 2 months ago
  • Answered
I've done a decent number of plot outlines (13 from scratch, another handful of corrections). In many cases, the existing plot outline was just plain inaccurate, I explained why, and my replacement was approved. E.g., Baby Face is now "A young woman, sexually exploited all her life, decides to turn the tables and exploit the hapless men at a big city bank - by gleefully sleeping her way to the top." The original (IIRC) made it sound like a drama about a woman troubled by her promiscuity.


However, just as often I've had plot outlines turned down, even though they're good (I'm a professional writer) and the original was painfully wrong. Here's the existing plot outline for Ozu's classic silent proto-noir Dragnet Girl: "A gangster tries to find redemption with the inadvertent help of an innocent shop girl and his jealous girlfriend will do anything to keep him."

Let's parse this ...

"A gangster" ... he's a supporting character, not the lead.

"tries to find redemption." That's midway through the third act. And his girlfriend half-talks and half-forces him into it, so it's unclear whether he's ever trying at all.

"with the inadvertent help of an innocent shop girl." There is a shop girl character, and she is part of the plot. But she's entirely passive in the redemption (her gang-member brother steals money from the shop where she works, and the gangster and girlfriend steal money to give to him so that he can replace it).

"and his jealous girlfriend will do anything to keep him". Leaving aside the missing comma, the girlfriend -- who is actually the main character -- is jealous of the shop girl for literally five minutes of screen time. That she immediately likes her, too, is part of the plot.

I explained all this (in a bit less detail) and submitted the accurate:

"The lives of an office worker and her boxer-turned-gangster boyfriend are forever altered when he's approached by an attractive young woman, the sister of a new member of his gang. She fears for her brother's future."

The two sentences strike me as a tiny bit awkward (I now think I should have split the first sentence at the comma, and will resubmit it that way), but it captures the plot engine: a gangster and his girlfriend see their life of crime through a new lens when they see how much a young girl worries abut someone leading a life like theirs. And yet it also suggests the jealousy component without making it more important than it is.

Why was this ignored? (There appears to be no mechanism for turning these down; either they appear -- in which case the earlier one disappears from your submission history --  or they don't, with no explanation.)

One more example. The Frisco Kid now reads "A Polish rabbi wanders through the Old West on his way to lead a synagogue in San Francisco. On the way he is nearly burnt at the stake by Indians and almost killed by outlaws."

I marked this for deletion, explaining "Fails to mention the key plot element (Harrison Ford is bigger on the DVD cover than Gene Wilder) and instead spoils second- and third-act events (without even describing them accurately!)."

[He is not nearly burnt at the stake; he voluntarily undergoes a trial by fire. And while he is almost killed by outlaws, that's not an isolated episode like the Indian encounter, as this sentence clearly implies. Instead, it's one part of a major plot thread that surprisingly constitutes the entire (and largely dramatic) third act.]

I submitted: " A naive Polish rabbi gets lost in the perilous Old West while en route to his congregation. But he acquires an unlikely guide: a bank robber with a heart of gold."

Let's see: I added the key adjective "naive," stated the Rabbi's quest in 13 fewer characters, specified that's he's lost rather than merely wandering, replaced an entire sentence inaccurately spoiling most of the movie with the single word "perilous" (and juxtaposed it with the "naive" to capture the plot dynamic), and instead explained the actual main plot.

This is merely infinitely better, but it was ignored, too.

There's no pattern at all to which of my outlines get approved and which don't. In fact, some of the approved ones were replacements for much less problematical ones. E.g. Wildlife is now my "A teenage boy must deal with his mother's complicated responses after his father temporarily abandons them to take a menial and dangerous job," and all I was doing there was removing a mild spoiler and better characterizing what the dad was up to.

WTF? Do you have two people looking at these, one of them competent, and one who turns down everything all day while playing games on his phone?



Photo of Eric M. Van

Eric M. Van

  • 24 Posts
  • 37 Reply Likes
  • baffled and frustrated

Posted 2 months ago

  • 1
Photo of Eboy

Eboy

  • 1451 Posts
  • 1731 Reply Likes
The original plot outlines/summaries are often ”copyrighted” to someone (it can be a nickname, or e-mail address - or even a real name), so the ”I’m a professional writer so I can write a better outline” isn't necessarily a 'best' approach. And ”WTF, don’t you see how good my plot lines are - are you stupid?” is not the approach I would take in these forums.

Btw. From the guide ( https://help.imdb.com/article/contrib...# ):

”IMPORTANT - corrections and By: lines Bylines are important to the original author and other users. If you make corrections (spelling, grammar, etc) to a Plot Summary, please DO NOT change the byline. If you disagree with the plot summary and want to substantively change it, please submit a new one with your own byline rather than edit the original and add your own name to it.”
Photo of Eric M. Van

Eric M. Van

  • 24 Posts
  • 37 Reply Likes
Eboy, my mentioning here that I'm a professional writer was simply to ward off any suspicion here that I was complaining about submitted plot outlines that were defective. I've never played any kind of credential card in a submission, because the work speaks for itself. (And had I wanted to play the credentials card here, I could have done much better than "professional writer.")

I never suggested stupidity as the reason for the inconsistency. I pointed out that I've had relatively subtle replacements approved. Nor am I complaining about a failure to recognize that my suggested replacement is subjectively better than the one I've said should be deleted, let alone that this should happen because I'm a pro.

I'm complaining that you can point out that an existing plot outline objectively violates the plot outline guidelines -- failing to accurately state the plot, (e.g., by misidentifying the protagonist), and containing spoilers (e.g., the third-act plot turn) -- submit a solid replacement, and be ignored. And that this happens essentially at random.

It's possible that we simply have a broken system, as there is no go / no go decision that needs to be made. Submitted plot outlines are never rejected. They are either accepted or they are ignored. It's quite possible that all of my ignored ones (all of which fixed objectively wrong outlines) were read, tentatively judged approvingly, and then got lost amidst too much work to handle.

Re the Dragnet Girl outline -- the present one reads like the work of someone who saw the film years ago and is using their vague memory. I just saw it.

Your "btw" is completely off-topic. I followed your link, and I verified that it's a note about Plot Summaries. They're completely unlike Plot Outlines. I've written just one.

Re how to behave on these forums ... All of us adding data to IMDB are working for free because we love the website and its usefulness. Sometimes the results of our labors result in legitimate frustration because IMDB, like everything else, isn't perfect. Attacking a contributor for expressing their frustration and bafflement while mischaracterizing their complaint, and then offering off-topic advice, is not doing anything to advance anyone's interests.
(Edited)
Photo of ACT_1

ACT_1

  • 3284 Posts
  • 3102 Reply Likes

Eric M. Van
Joined community on January 28, 2013
- - -

What is Your Plot author link ? ?


You could add ...

Baby Face  (1933) 
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0023775/reference
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0023775/plotsummary

A young woman, sexually exploited all her life...
- emvan
https://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=emvan&view=simple&sort=alpha
2 titles:
1. The Immigrant (2013)
2. The Nines (2007)
- - -

Dragnet Girl  (1933)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024120/reference

A gangster tries to find redemption with the inadvertent help of an innocent shop ...
- Kenneth Chisholm
https://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=Kenneth Chisholm&view=simple&sort=alpha
 918 titles

Tokiko is an office typist who is more pleased at catching the owner's son attention ...
- Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)
https://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)&view=simple&sort=alpha
 474 titles
- - -

The Frisco Kid  (1979)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079180/reference
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079180/plotsummary

A Polish rabbi wanders through the Old West on his way to lead a synagogue in San Francisco...
- Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>
https://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>&view=simple&sort=alpha
The requested URL was not found on our server

= = =


( GS has problems with  s p a c e s  in links )

(Edited)
Photo of Eric M. Van

Eric M. Van

  • 24 Posts
  • 37 Reply Likes
ACT_1, what is a "Plot Author link"? I've signed all of my outlines and my one summary with "emvan" (my username, recognizable from reviews and lists).

You just discovered for me that my recently submitted outline for The Nines was accepted as an alternate summary (even though it doesn't qualify as one). The existing one is objectively wrong: it takes what seems to be three short films and describes them as if they are one. But it wasn't deleted. This actually looks like someone got halfway through approving my submission!

The whole system here appears to be screwy. A "Plot Outline" is, within the system, just a Summary that qualifies to be used as an Outline because it is shorter than 240 characters. It makes sense that there's nowhere to click to see the Outlines, because the one decreed to be the best shows up as prominently as possible, and it's almost impossible for an alternative one to be worthy of being one of the 5 plot summaries because you can't really offer an "alternative view" in 239 characters.

So the Outline that's being used will appear as the first Summary, together with its author attribution. But as you've discovered, these are not found by searching for Plot_Author, while Summaries are. Besides, Baby Face, I've also verified that i signed all of the following:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070464/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (O Lucky Man!)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5929754/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Wildlife)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2333804/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (The Zero Theorem)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2099556/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Antiviral)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2414766/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Frequencies)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1757746/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Extracted)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1244666/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Fish Story)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286921/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Revenger's Tragedy)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1680133/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Extraterrestrial)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2660332/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (LFO)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0301777/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Robot Stories)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1523483/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl (Kaboom)

As you can see, I'm going through and systematically adding or improving the outlines for indie sci-fi movies, since they all appear in my list of same, https://www.imdb.com/list/ls076641370/, which has 36.382 views. I'm maybe halfway through that project but have been stymied by the problems here.
(Edited)
Photo of ACT_1

ACT_1

  • 3284 Posts
  • 3099 Reply Likes


Problem with you List link in your message should be:
... appear in my list of same,
https://www.imdb.com/list/ls076641370/
- - -

what is a "Plot Author link"?

https://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=emvan&view=simple&sort=alpha
- - -

Your list above of 12 titles should be listed with your plot_author=emvan link
(These are posted as "Summaries" not  "Outlines" )

O Lucky Man!  (1973) 
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070464/reference
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070464/plotsummary
Plot
An apprentice coffee salesman ...
- emvan
https://www.imdb.com/search/title?plot_author=emvan&view=simple&sort=alpha
- - -

Plots and Bios should be listed with Quick Links

emvan
IMDb member since July 2000
https://www.imdb.com/user/ur0650697/
https://www.imdb.com/user/ur0650697/ratings - 2,084 titles
https://www.imdb.com/user/ur0650697/lists - 6 lists
https://www.imdb.com/user/ur0650697/reviews - 54 Reviews
- - -

Ask IMDb about your Plot Author link not showing all your Plots
Add a link to This GS thread ?

https://help.imdb.com/contact
IMDb Contact Us
IMDb Fan/Contributor questions
[ E-mail ]

.

(Edited)
Photo of Eboy

Eboy

  • 1451 Posts
  • 1731 Reply Likes
Eric, fair enough, I got a bit carried away. It’s true that we’re all contributors here and aim for similar things.


That being said, the ”by:line” info also refers to Plot Outlines as far as I know. Why would they be any different (they’re of course shorter and appear when you click the title page)? The main idea is the same: to respect the ”author” and his/her text. It’s not a race who writes the best Outline/Summary.

(NOTE: But I do fully understand removing spoilers, correcting grammar/spelling, and fixing things (plot/character wise) that are simply incorrect and/or doesn’t make sense. But I have never replaced anyone’s ”by:line” if the text wasn’t mine originally. Then I would write a completely new one. )
(Edited)
Photo of Eric M. Van

Eric M. Van

  • 24 Posts
  • 37 Reply Likes
Eboy, the text you quoted actually doesn't apply to Plot Outlines. The page is set up in a way that makes that clear: rules for all plot stuff in general, then specific further rules for each type.

Plot Outlines and Summaries serve different functions. A summary goes further into the plot because there's no room in the 239 characters of an Outline to do so. I'm not sure if this was the original intent, but the Plot Outlines are very close, if not identical, to the loglines that filmmakers use at the beginning of a movie pitch. The plot is reduced to its heart, its core, the setup, the hook. That's why there's supposed to be just one, whereas the longer Summaries can emphasize different aspects of the plot without getting into spoiler territory (and hence up to four or five are permitted).

There's no contact with the author of the the replaced plot outline. I have to point out the inadequacy of their efforts to an IMDB employee in order to argue for the need to replace their efforts. The result is that one day they see that their outline has been replaced by another. Hopefully, they can see why the new one is better.

Here's Donnie Darko at present:

A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident.

I just submitted this replacement:

A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a giant demonic rabbit, who saves him from a bizarre accidental death and warns him of the imminent end of the world.

In doing so, I pointed out that this present outline:

  1. Fails to mention the narrative hook (the imminent end of the world, introduced after 10 minutes)
  2. Instead mentions a plot element that enters at the 27 minute mark and is comparatively incidental, in that the crimes are barely investigated and their criminal nature has zero impact on the plot
  3. Spoils that Frank is a man in a suit, which given that he seems to be a hallucination, isn't at all obvious
  4. Doesn't connect Donnie's "escape" to the rabbit, by mentioning them in the wrong order
  5. Has four writing errors that a seventh-grade teacher would mark with a red pencil (the "large" is redundant since people are larger than rabbits by default, two crimes do not constitute a series, the aforementioned reversal of order of events, and you don't "escape" an accident if you are a mile from it when it happens, you "avoid" it).
I absolutely respect the original author for their effort. I don't have to respect the results when they're not competent (beyond the excellent first seven words, which I borrowed. More on that in a moment). It is not disrespecting someone to quietly mention to a third party that their work was subpar and replace it with something better, especially if you keep the part that was good.

(Is it possible to share credit for a plot outline or summary? There should be, but I've never seen it done.)

IMDB plot outlines are a beautiful challenge to write. Sum up the essence of the plot with no spoilers in one or two sentences!  They are insanely inconsistent in quality. Most are really good and some are so good they fill me with pride for the work of my peers. But there are occasional stinkers. It's frustrating to spend a lot of time writing a replacement for one of the outliers and have your efforts be subject to what seems to be a coin toss!

(Edited)
Photo of Eboy

Eboy

  • 1451 Posts
  • 1731 Reply Likes
They can be inconsistent in quality, yes, and 10 people would probably write 10 different Outlines for the same movie. There’s no ”one way” to do it. But we also have to remember how many titles (and episodes) are in IMDb. You can’t really fix them all. But you’re fully entitled to try. I mean at the end of the day the process is between you and the IMDb data editors. The original point kinda was: they can also be rejected, so it’s best not to take it personally.


IMDb staff should probably comment on the possible ”by:line” issues between an Outline and a Summary, but the process is very similar. You add your nickname/e-mail/real name in both cases (OR leave it blank), whether it’s an Outline or a Summary. I’m slightly surprised if you can just replace the ”by:line” with Outlines if you correct some grammar or change a few things. But you learn something new every day.


( We actually had a few threads about these issues recently. )

(EDIT: And I actually agree with many of your points. For example, your Outline for Donnie Darko is undoubtedly better and less spoiler-ish. But I probably still wouldn’t change the original ”by:line”. Just out of principle. )
(Edited)
Photo of Eric M. Van

Eric M. Van

  • 24 Posts
  • 37 Reply Likes
I've never changed the "by" when I've tweaked an outline. Sometimes it's just removing the annoying "A story about ..." or the equivalent at the start.

I may cancel my Donnie Darko submission and resubmit with shared credit. It does some to be a simple text field. But they need to fix the strange bug that makes it impossible to find someone's outlines via search.

I'm willing to replace any outline that I think fails the criteria, and tweak / improve any outline that's in a public list of mine. That's plenty enough!

When they're rejected, I certainly don't take it personally. It's like getting into one line at the supermarket and having all the others move twice as quickly. You're just wrestling with a bad system and when you lose, it's very obviously random.

My bigger concern is whether IMDB is paying people who aren't performing their jobs adequately. I suspect, however, that all the data editors are doing their best, but the crew is grossly understaffed. After all, there's overwhelming evidence that no one has ever been hired to improve whatever algorithms were originally implemented to prevent manipulation of user ratings.


Photo of Richard Shepherd

Richard Shepherd

  • 148 Posts
  • 309 Reply Likes
I personally think it's the latter option - but it's somewhat understandable. The sheer volume of information submitted to a service like IMDB in a single hour, let alone an entire day is absolutely enormous - some of this can be processed via automation but a lot of it has to be done by hand (i.e. Spam filters will cut down on some of the junk but a lot of it will get through).

I also personally think in general IMDB's handling times are quite reasonable, and I do not believe their employees are incompetent - but I do imagine they (like anybody else) are overwhelmed at times. 

Just my 2 cents :)
(Edited)
Photo of ACT_1

ACT_1

  • 3284 Posts
  • 3102 Reply Likes

Data Processing Times:
https://contribute.imdb.com/times

Data Type - SLA - Oldest Item - Unprocessed Items

Filmography: Cast   Platinum   26 April 2019    3,707 
Filmography: Crew  Platinum   26 April 2019    4,078

Plot Outlines           Gold          25 April 2019       48 
Plot Summaries      Gold          25 April 2019         9 
Plot Synopsis         Gold           23 April 2019       11
 
User Reviews        Platinum    26 April 2019    1,207

.

Photo of Jeorj Euler

Jeorj Euler

  • 6811 Posts
  • 8522 Reply Likes
The software needs further updates, but some time in recent years, somebody decided a prerequisite for further updates should involve an attempt to normalize all the end-user platform renditions of the site, and that seems to be working out as quickly as it can, which at least seems slow.
Photo of ACT_1

ACT_1

  • 3284 Posts
  • 3102 Reply Likes


I've posted this several times here

IMDb Statistics
https://www.imdb.com/pressroom/stats/
As of December 2018
Titles: 5,626,984
Names: 9,572,880
Filmography: 107,817,611
- - -

Sun Apr 28 2019

https://www.imdb.com/search/title?release_date=1874-01-01,&sort=release_date,asc
5,407,239 titles

https://www.imdb.com/search/name?gender=male,female

5,374,583 names

- - -

Cortá por Lozano (TV Series)
Episode dated 23 January 2019  (2019)
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10255000/

Maria José Velásquez
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm10651000/

Trouble in New Castille (2019)

- - -

IMDb needs to add Date Started | Updated to Names and Title pages

.

(Edited)
Photo of Will

Will, Official Rep

  • 3355 Posts
  • 3800 Reply Likes
Hi Eric,

Have you got the submission references for some of these edits and I can take a look?

Regards,
Will
Photo of Eboy

Eboy

  • 1451 Posts
  • 1731 Reply Likes
( Related: Will, please also see my question in this thread about Outline vs Synopsis when it comes to ”by:line”. Thanks. )