Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

So I spent most of yesterday with my younger puppy, who had a medical incident.  (This is writing-related - bear with me for a few moments.)  This morning, I took her in for blood tests to rule out the scarier possibilities.  They're all outside chances - the odds are very good that it was just an isolated episode - but what's hardest to deal with is not knowing the outcome.

After a long, bleary day, I started applying this to a writing context.  In broad strokes, there are various ways of generating suspense for characters.  One is dangling an "inevitable" event or threat over their heads, highlighting what is to come.  Probably the most wretched example of this (at least, to me) is the overused Hollywood trope of starting at the critical moment and then flashing back.  Another is to set up multiple possible outcomes, some of which might be catastrophic, others which might even be beneficial ... and then obscuring which way the pendulum will swing.  (There's a 1.5 option, or maybe it's a 1.66 or ... a compromise where the reader knows what's coming, but the characters do not.  The reverse is also an option, but difficult to do without feeling like a cheat.)

So I got to wonder - which is more effective?  The dread or anticipation of a single moment, or the uncertain shuffling between many?  Obviously, the answer depends on the needs of the individual, but given a choice ... what's your preferred poison?

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