Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Mystery of Suspense with a side-order of Sex

Writing 101.

The concept called Dramatic Irony sounds complicated. It isn't.

It's when the audience knows something one or more of the important characters in a story doesn't know. As in Hitchcock's bomb under the table[1], if the audience doesn't know it's there and it explodes, that's a surprise. If the audience does know it's there and it doesn't explode... the fact the audience knows is dramatic irony, the effect it causes is suspense. Though it only causes suspense if it's got consequences, the bigger the consequences the better the suspense.

Bombs generally have consequences.

Suspense is a very good thing, it keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. It enforces their participation and without audience participation a story is worthless.

Mystery is the opposite of suspense, being just something the audience - and one or more important characters also doesn't know. Hopefully the audience wants to know, but they don't and the story hinges on it, then it fails.

I'm getting interested in this stuff because I've nearly finished Winter and I'm heading into the "let's analyse the story scene by scene using screenwriting tools and see how we can make it better" stage.

In Winter I'm reasonably happy with the suspense factor - even though it's based on a mystery. The audience knows that the protagonist has a major secret, it's a mystery although it's almost certainly something bad (good things are seldom any use). The audience also knows that this secret is going to make something bad happen to one of the other characters. Eventually.

And I wrote my first sex scene which was an interesting experience. It only occupies half a page (this is a script after all) but it does the job it needs to do.

But what's even more interesting was how to get the two characters from strangers to making love in 30 pages. For that I did some research and found the 12 Steps to Intimacy[2] which, like all things, are guidelines rather than rules.

Have you written your first sex scene yet? How was it for you?


What's on the turntable? "Spare Some Love" by Renaissance from "Prologue"

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