back to list

Shmuck Bait

Banes at 12:00AM, Feb. 9, 2023

Shmuck Bait is the name, I think coined by one of the Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul writers, where a cliffhanger or shocking ending leads the audience to believe something major has changed. For example, the appearance that a major character has died. But when the next episode/issue/book starts, the character is fine.

Of course, this kind of thing can work if it's done right. Always about context. Writers WANT the audience to be invested, and worry about the fate of the characters. And the audiences want that too. So it's on the writers/creators to when it's legit, and when it's a cheat, and whether it's too much of a cheat.

Annie Wilkes, in the book “Misery”, remembers her ability to spot Shmuck Bait when she watched movie serials as a child. She would watch a chapter that ended with the hero's car going off a cliff, and then when seeing the next chapter, and learning that the hero jumped out before the car went over, would be outraged.

Annie was a discriminating viewer - she knew the guy hadn't jumped out of the car in the previous chapter. This skill of hers is bad news for the author she's forcing to write a book that resurrects a character in a believable way – but that's a whole other story. I believe she references this in the movie version of Misery as well.

Have you ever felt cheated as a viewer or reader by Shmuck Bait? Have you ever used it – or avoided it – in your own stories?

See you next time - I'm now jumping from a plane with no parachute, so you'll have to tune in to see what happens!


Don’t forget you can now advertise on DrunkDuck for just $2 in whichever ad spot you like! The money goes straight into running the site. Want to know more? Click this link here! Or, if you want to help us keep the lights on you can sponsor us on Patreon. Every bit helps us!

Special thanks to our patrons!!

Justnopoint - Banes - RMccool - Abt_Nihil - PhoenixIgnis - Gunwallace - Cdmalcolm1 - PaulEberhardt - dragonaur - Emma_Clare - FunctionCreep - Eustacheus - SinJinsoku - Smkinoshita - jerrie - Chickfighter - Andreas_Helixfinger - Tantz_Aerine - Epic Saveroom - Genejoke - Davey Do - Spark of Interest - Gullas - Damehelsing - Roma - NanoCritters - Scott D - Bluecuts34 - j1ceasar - Tinchel - PhillipDP - Teh Andeh - Peipei - Digital_Genesis - Hushicho - Sad Demon Comics - JediAnn Solo - Kiddermat - BitterBadger - Palouka - cheeko - Paneltastic - L.C.Stein - Zombienomicon - dpat57 - Bravo1102 - The Jagged - LoliGen - OrcGirl - Miss Judged - Fallopiancrusader - arborcides - ChipperChartreuse - Jaybiejay - Chris_tar - Mogtrost - InkyMoondrop - Jgib99 - Hirokari - Orgivemedeath Ind - Mks Monsters



bravo1102 at 1:48AM, Feb. 10, 2023

Yiddish is a combination Hebrew, German and various Slavic languages. So so a schmuck is a fool. Actually a long thin penis that looks like a snake. Not very satisfying since there's no girth and the owner thinks he's big because of length but isn't because it's a pencil. All the Yiddish for "fool" also mean a type of penis. Putz is a very small one that's not good for anything. This could all be apocryphal but it's hysterical to see a good borscht belt comedian explain it all.

Ozoneocean at 7:54PM, Feb. 9, 2023

Wikipeadia reckons it comes from the old Polish word "shmok" for grass-snake or dragon, but then wiki isn't really that reliable for folk and culture stuff I find so who knows?

Ozoneocean at 7:49PM, Feb. 9, 2023

It's spelled "schmuck", it comes from German for Jewellery funny enough! Who knows the etymology and how it came to mean "fool" in Yiddish? My theory is that it could have come from people buying fake jewellery and being fooled by it... which would have been pretty common.

DylanTale Comics at 4:59PM, Feb. 9, 2023

I remember kind of using Shmuck Bait overall when it came to scripting out Set 2. Throughout Chapters 8-10 (which pick up where Set 1 ended), it focuses more on Eclipse and her adventures and so there's that uncertainty of "Is the Faceless alive? Is he dead?" I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with the content for the last few pages of Set 2 and I was so excited to heighten that kind of tension and then BOOM, [spoiler] The Faceless comes out of nowhere and basically turns into Master Chief, ripping and tearing through all those adversaries XD. I think that using Shmuck Bait is a high risk, high reward type of concept. Use it, but use it with caution.

InkyMoondrop at 6:54AM, Feb. 9, 2023

There were some series that occasionally pulled this: killed off characters only to bring them all back. Why I hate it is because pretty soon it loses the intended effect and you can't take it seriously anymore, the stakes become negated. It's ultimately a coward move not to properly kill off characters that matter in a story that frequently builds on how lethal and dangerous things are. Killing a character off doesn't mean you have to let go of the character, Nathaniel Fisher Sr. in Six Feet Under dies within the first... 5 minutes? Yet he appears throughout the 5 seasons in form of memories and imagined conversations and since everyone "knew a different side of him", he appears differently in the context of these characters. One of the most creative writing in character I've seen. There are ways to bring characters back, but them having a plot armor does not imrpove the quality of a series that prouds itself on being clever and daring.

PaulEberhardt at 6:04AM, Feb. 9, 2023

I'm not just annoyed but really get peeved when writers do this on purpose, just as marcorossi described. It's an insult to readers' intelligence, just like too blatant foreshadowing ("Everything's fine for now, he thought, but he was wrong. Things would soon take a different turn, then he would go through sadness and pain and after that get a happy ending and marry and have a lot of kids.") you know, those that would spoil the story if these things weren't abundantly clear anyway, as if the writer was on his/her knees pleading, "Please, please don't put the book down, it's all emotional now but there will be some action and/or sex soon." which is not just embarrassing and childish, but also disrespects readers by suggesting that that's their intellectual level. It's exactly the same with shmuck bait on purpose, with the only difference that it's not pleading but unrestrained, arrogant self-satisfaction ("Haha, dork, fooled ya for a second, din't I?").

PaulEberhardt at 5:38AM, Feb. 9, 2023

I don't feel exactly cheated, but rather think it's really annoying when that happens. I hear this is often the result of some legal stuff going on behind the scenes or an actor or someone of the crew either acting like a prima donna or wanting to increase their pay or the fans clutter the mail boxes with sinister threats or a nasty mixture of all of the above. The writers have to react to it somehow, and risking that a character turns out to have been saved in some unlikely if not outright illogical manner seems to be the lesser of several evils. In literature, a famous example is Sherlock Holmes, who was essentially saved from a waterfall by his fans.

marcorossi at 12:19AM, Feb. 9, 2023

I read that in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, an epic poem about knights written around 1500 at a time when knights didn't really exist anymore and so in part a self conscious fantasy, there is a chapter at the beginning where one mayor character seems to die and the author tells to the reader: - did him die? is him alive? From the fact that you can see that most pages are still on your right you can already guess the answer! - That said, I personally hate this kind of gimmick because it means the authors are writing "for effect" instead than "for content" and this makes me less interested in the story as a whole, it is as if someone is speaking with great property of language and style but not believing what he says.

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Mastodon