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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Again, I think you can get away with not having the characters call for backup if you address the plothole. You don't need an ironclad fix; you just need to signal the audience that you're aware of the plothole and you've done something to address it. After all, no story is completely ironclad, and people do stupid things in real life all the time.

For example, as one reader writes, have the radio be on the fritz earlier in the show. Or the good guys know that the building is being monitored for radio signals; they don't dare draw attention to themselves. Or they have to be very, very quiet, because they are hunting rabbits. So long as you've addressed it, the audience won't feel you're being lazy.

Of course, the audience will tolerate plotholes if you come up with something really entertaining and clever that depends on the plothole. In the cast of this week's 24 though, it was the usual running around with guns and knocking people on the head with them.

I wonder if, as the another reader points out, part of the enjoyment of the show is being one step ahead of the hero. Do we really enjoy the suspense that comes from observing the clues the writers have intentionally or inadvertently left for us. Certainly the "victim-cam" shot that tells us our hero is being stalked creates suspense. Do we really want David E. Kelley television, where you never know what's going to happen? Or do we want to, say, see it coming several acts away that Luke and Lorelai are going to wind up at a school performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" listening to some romantic song and feeling romantic about each other?

Suspense or surprise?

Personally I think I enjoy surprise; suspense makes me squirm. But I prefer to write suspense, and I think it hits the audience harder than surprise.

The best is when you develop suspense, but then surprise the audience with how it turns out. The O.C. does that, but only for the minor stories. The big stories are often silly and soapy and ham-handed. The little stories, like Marissa and Alex's lesbian romance, are often nicely turned and surprising. Just when you think Marissa's not going to be able to tell Summer, she does. And that's neat. Maybe that's what I keep watching that show for.


Nothing distracts an audience from a plothole like a big explosion ;-)

By Anonymous Trev, at 10:24 PM  

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