I enjoy stories in all forms and shapes. Books, magazines, movies, TV Shows comics/manga, anime, video games... (although the last medium's story telling has left a lot to be desired as of late) I read a lot of stuff. I watch a lot of stuff. Yes, you could call me a veritable story who... horse. Ahem.
However, as a writer I always desiccate the things I immerse myself into - sometimes subconsciously. That is not to say that I don't enjoy them - I just don't take the material I consume for granted anymore. I look at structure, word choice, pacing, plot, character... A lot of stuff.
And while it hasn't diminished my enjoyment it has become different.
My mind is always prone to wander and one of the worst traps I fall into is idea brainstorming during a novel or movie. It's not a conscious thought -- just something I sometimes find myself falling into.
Actually, I was reading Brad T's story in Analog a while ago when it gave me an idea of how to speed up the action in a slow part in the middle of one of my stories.
I also pick up on how characters are portrayed. Character can be tough and to find a unique voice for each character can be a challenge.
I also try to read and pay attention to how much of the prose is dedicated to character and setting and how much is dedicated to plot. Another easy rut to get stuck in is a story that has the white room syndrome.
I have found that I am more critical about stories and novels than I used to be. I wondered how one novel got bought because I think the first 13 lines were full of Tell. But than again it was the prologue or maybe it was the start of chapter one but there was a prologue so that may have changed how the editor saw it.
And part way through another one I stopped and thought "Hey, that's a bunch of tell".
One short, I stopped reading after a few pages and thought that was done rather well. She split up a info dump throughout one scene, including the info in the story instead of a separate paragraph like most writers do. Of course if they do it well enough a paragraph still seems like part of the story.
Usually though I still manage to read without those types of interruptions.
I agree with both Wordcaster and LDWriter. I find that while I'm watching a movie or TV show something will make me think of my story, and the next thing I know ten seconds of dialogue or action has passed and I can't remember a bit of it, so I have to jump back to where I was before I started daydreaming.
I also am far less patient with TV and movie writing these days. It's not just a matter of working so hard to improve my own writing and seeing the poor writing around me, I strongly believe that TV writing has gone dramatically downhill in quality in the last few years. There are always exceptions, of course, but they seem limited to the comedy shows.
The variety on television has also gone down it seems like, converging into cop dramas, sitcoms and cartoons, murder or medical mysteries, and the variety of unscripted shows that include sports, reality TV, and cooking shows.
My biggest pet peeve is that all the recent sci-fi shows have been utter failures in writing and usually acting as well. Those are the shows I'd be most interested in seeing and they're the ones who are done the most poorly.
Sorry for the minor rant on television, but yes, the more I write the more I look at everything I see with a more critical eye to technique and obvious mistakes or plot holes. A part of me longs for the good old days when I enjoyed just about everything I watched or read :/.
I find I pick something to pieces as I watch---I mean, even my favorite movies and books have plot holes and errors and such. (Just the other day I realized that, in Ratatouille, the bulk of the action takes place in a restaurant, yet you never see anybody pay for a meal...)
I've read a number of interesting non-fiction books, information-wise---but I find myself irritated by bad grammar or some factual mistake. One that stands out is a book about the history of the Tommy Gun---seemed like a poorly-written-albeit-well-researched account, until I got to the end, and was rewarded with a section that was lyrical and moving even if it wasn't the best written thing in the world.
As for helping my own writing...well, I think being able to do all this with the works of others helps me assemble things better in my own work. If I can take something apart, see how it works, and put it back together again, I can do the same with my own stuff.
I should have defined "picking something to pieces," or similar pharses, more towards seeing how it's put together, and less in destroying it.
There's also the sense of "picking something to pieces" as critiquing---of which we've got lots of threads and posts about. I haven't done much of it here, but in the past, I thought I learned a lot from doing it.