Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hadfield Library again

One month on and I'm heading up to Hadfield again.

A class on crime writing awaits. I have two and a half hours to get a group of people to go through the stages of sketching out a crime novel/screenplay story arc. In the process they will hopefully get a deeper understanding of how stories work.

Posessing that understanding has the unexpected side-effect of enabling people to reverse engineer the elements of a movie plot, and thus have a fairly shrewd idea of where the story is going to end up, having only seen the first 20 minutes.

Such knowledge can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing when you make a prediction and it proves correct and you get that smug feeling. A curse if it happens to be your partner who does the prediction and thus ruins your movie experience.

I'm well used to my long-suffering wife saying: "Stop! Don't tell me who did it!" I really must learn to hold my tongue.

When, just occasionally, a movie serves up something completely unexpected, it gives a special buzz of pleasure.

I say 'movie' rather than 'novel' because movies tend to be more tightly plot constrained. In story terms they are more condensed than novels. Being condensed, it is harder for the people who crafted the story to hide the tell-tale construction lines that, when projected, show where the story is heading.


Paul Lamb said...

Well, I must ask: Did you see the film Usual Suspects? Were you able to figure out the twist at the end in advance. (I didn't.)

When I can figure out the ending in these kinds of movies, I tend to have less respect for them. It's as though the writers didn't try hard enough if the best they could come up with was easy for me to figure out.

I hope you find your class fulfilling (at least better this time than last).

Rod Duncan said...

Yup, great class. Interesting people.

And that movie did come up in the conversation, as it happens.

Did I spot the end? To be honest, I can't remember now. I certainly didn't see it a long way off.

My feeling is that the best place for the audience to spot the ending is just a few moments before the reveal. That way they get the satisfaction and yet they are kept guessing for a long time.

Several of the reviewers of my novella The Mentalist have been kind enough to say that they did not get it until the reveal - even though it is such a very short book. I was pleased with that.