Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Reason to Turn the Page

Be warned: I'm foul mouthed this week.
Here there be four-letter words.

If I can guess what's going to happen why the Hell should I waste my time turning pages?

To find out if I'm right? Please.

Admittedly, at times I am no fun to go to the movies with because of a predilection to see plot developments for the tools they are. Believe me, when I am unsure and guessing--I am fucking entertained.

Every time a reader picks up a book (or an e-reader) they seek to gain something. A history buff wants insight into days long past. A student needs knowledge to enhance their skill or to pass a test. But fiction is about pleasure. (Okay, I'm sure someone out there reads stereo instruction for pleasure, but for the sake of argument, roll with me here.)

First, we all understand how the cover tells readers what to expect. If I said "a book cover with..." any of the following: shirtless musclemen, spaceships, a dragon, etc. you would have an expectation about what you'd find inside. Sooo...what if you found an epic space fantasy inside the pages of a book fronted with  woman in a Victorian gown and a plantation behind her...or vice versa? If that story wasn't what you thought it would be but the shit still reeled you in, would you stop reading?

"Well...not if it reeled me in."

Damn right.

The author makes an unspoken pact with the reader. Depending on the genre it might be: I will thrill you or  I will scare you or  I will make you weep.

If the reader already knows that the witch will cast spell to save the day, that the vampire will bite the girl, that the cowboy will bring that herd in and save the farm...why should they part with their hard-earned cash let alone their precious time just to follow your string of words to get there?

Because they want you to give them something more than the obvious genre-expectation.

Why should you not use tropes? Because they are flat carbon copies of something that was once cool and you can do a Hell of a lot better than that. Because you want to entertain. Because you want the reader to keep turning pages. Because you want them to enjoy it so much they recommend it to others. Don't misunderstand me, I love dragons and swordsmen in loincloths and fur. But if I wanted to read the same character on the same arc going on the same old adventure but this time in Miami instead of Rivendell, I'd buy one god damn book and read it over and over and over and over, each time using white-out to change the location until the book fell apart.

Sounds stupid when I put it that way, doesn't it?

But...but...its not fantasy without a sword-slinger who gets the girl in the end. And you have to have an axe wielding dwarf. Its not sci-fi without a ship the crew loves. It's not a spy thriller without gadgets.

Yes. It can be. Because we know those stories. I bet you could all name multiple characters who fit each of those options above. So turn those tropes upside down and do something we can't anticipate. Example: In the Pirates of the Caribbean those scallywags had to put the gold back.

Don't follow someone else's lead. Holy shitsack, Batman! THIS IS A CREATIVE FIELD! Make mindful, purposeful choices in a manner that bravely supports the originality of your story and your characters. When you deviate from the tropes, not only does your characterization deepen, but your reader doesn't know what to expect. Things are uncertain. If you're doing your job, sunshine, the readers are going to be fucking worried about what's going to happen.

And you know what else? They'll turn the damn pages.

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