Friday, December 29, 2006

Some other things for your bag of tricks...!

Consider this more of a catch-all entry for some interesting tricks you may want to try sometime. After this, I’ll get serious about characters…

Irony: Regardless of the dictionary definition, “irony” iswhen something happens that comes as a surprise, but you’ve managed to earn it. Unlike a bad movie, where the plot twist is put in there just to have a plot twist (such as the murderer being someone completely out of left field, or a psycho killer that couldn’t have done it in the first place due to logistics reasons), irony can be something real fun for the reader and writer. The best example is probably MD Geist, where a person that acts like a villain, but you expect to come around, well, doesn’t.

The point here is that you need to “earn” your irony. Throw in some subtle (or not-so-subtle) clues at the beginning, and then just leave them alone. Towards the end, spring it. If it’s been done right, it will come across as great. Never have a plot twist just for the sake of having a plot twist, or your readers will cry foul, and you’ll not be very liked in the community afterwards (especially if it involves doing something nasty to a well-loved character!).

Dramatic Irony: People love knowing things that others don’t, and this is the ultimate expression of that. Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the characters don’t. In essence, there are two kinds here: The first is when characters reveal information that other characters don’t know. For example, the villain’s plans or a piece of vital information. In this version, the other characters act without knowledge of that information, usually to their sorrow (such as being in the middle of an ambush or if the information was vital). The readers know the information, and squirm because they know what’s going to happen, and can’t warn anyone that can do something about it.

The second version is when none of the characters know something that the player’s do. The usual variation of this is when clues are laid out on how to solve a problem, but the characters don’t put it together because they lack the reader’s perspective. Eventually (and hopefully) the characters will start putting it together, but the readers will be so smug until then.

Prophecy: In this case, I’m actually not referring to the usual twenty-seven verses of clues to the future that the characters need to unravel. I’m actually referring to showing the end results of something that happens in the story before the story actually gets going. For example, showing gravestones and characters that are scarred, and then going back to the past, where the story is just starting. Besides throwing a somber mood over everything, you’ll find that some readers will get fanatic, especially if one of the doomed characters becomes really popular. I’d hate to be the author that did that, but it can make for some interesting reading…

Parallel Narration: Although it’s usually used in flashbacks, it can add some interesting suspense or humor to something going on. The basic idea is that, as something is going on, you provide a narrative from other characters. Note: Not the usual caption-style, where the writer tries to explain something, but where you show something going, and a character describes what is happening. The character supplies added information, as well as describing what’s going on. It may sound redundant, but it works; it comes across as a mix of campfire story-telling and confessional. It works really well as part of a flashback, especially when a character is revealing a major secret.

For suspense purposes, it works well when the character is describing what should be happening, but the plan goes slightly awry. For example, the character says, “They should be reaching the door right about now. Good thing there weren’t any guards.” Of course, the group being described is heading into an obvious ambush (readers can see the bad guys in the shadows). In essence, the situation that the character is describing is about to go south, the character can’t do anything about, and there will soon be major issues to deal with.

If you want to try it for comedy, the narration has to be 75% accurate. That is, although the basics are there in the narration, it’s describing a mission that’s completely different. The classic example is when the narrator is describing a super-serious spy mission, but the actual action is more like a trip to the mall: “There was a frenzied melee, from which I barely survived!” sounds all nice and scary, but not when it’s describing a sale in a clothing store.

Acting Appropriately Stupid: For those few that really need an example: You ever see a person head off alone to check something out in a movie, and then die horribly? No matter how prideful a person is, walking into almost-certain death without back-up would probably not be a strong possibility. However, you need those occasional moments; they’re fun to do, incredibly dramatic, and can create some great visuals. Yeah, it may sound really, really bad, but it is one of those reasons that some people get into comics in the first place…

Normal Human Reactions: It may sound silly, but remember that you need your characters to react normally in some situations. If something happens, remember that it can be fun for the characters to react as they normally would, not as your plot demands that they do. I’m considering those moments when everyone glares at another character, or something embarrassing happens and they laugh at a character, or when the camera is supposed to off moments happen (walking with the girl in a park, for example).

If these are done right, they come off as unscripted and really cool; if done poorly, they come off as contrived and just annoying. So practice a few times before you try to pull one off, or your fan base will desert you…

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