Everyone loves a good thriller, a titillating mystery, a tale full of twists and turns (that make sense), something that challenges you to find the answer before you’re given it at the final act.
I’m not sure how many like sitting down to construct them.
Don’t get me wrong, I love doing it (though I realize in retrospect that I haven’t written nearly as many suspense stories as I should have by now), but it is a challenge in and of itself to construct it as a writer, and even more as a comic creator.
And the biggest challenge (at least to someone that likes ordered progressions like me) is that you need to start with the ending before you can go back and write the beginning.
To me, constructing a mystery is like a literary game of jenga: you start with the solution to the plot’s mystery, in its full, glorious detail, with all the clever tricks and setups and games the characters have played or done.
Then carefully, you start removing tiles of information here and there, but in such a way that the jenga doesn’t collapse on you.
In short, you present the story with a lot of the actual happenings or important, strategic clues/facts/info/background hidden so that the audience can easily be fooled or misled; but in the same time you have to leave enough clues to the correct answer in your story that perceptive (or genre savvy) members of your audience actually WILL be able to guess right, and tell what is going to happen in the end.
I remember as a young author I hated that notion (how DARE a reader be cleverer than me! Cripes!), that a reader might guess what is going on before I actually revealed it, and was often tempted to just make it impossible for anyone to know the answer- but that always led to a story that felt unrealistic, fantastical or just plainly wrong or ‘cheating’ in a far worse manner than a deus ex machina resolution.
It's part of your relationship of trust, between you and your audience: they trust that you are presenting them with a mystery they (or someone clever enough) can solve, since it’s characters with human intellect that solve it in the story. If you betray that trust and present them with a resolution that is nonsensical or not based on the given clues presented in acts 1 and 2 of your story, then they disengage from and reject the story itself, and may even come to resent it.
It’s even tougher when the medium is webcomics, because the clues can be presented in two ways: the narrative/dialogue AND the layouts, settings, backgrounds or angles in which every panel is drawn, the characters’ body language, even things as subtle as the time of the day or the weather while a scene is taking place.
How about you? Have you ever tried your hand at creating a mystery plot or a suspense/thriller plot? How did you go about it? Did you know the solution or did you just begin, flying by the seat of your pants?
P.S. I have never played jenga. I’m too impatient for it.
Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Nov. 19, 2016
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