A couple of weeks ago I posted about the power that family has on any story. How the engagement that the reader could overlay for their own family could potentially help in drawing them into the narrative at hand. When I posted the link on my Facebook page I explained that my wife and I had received some wonderful news before we’d gone on holiday and told people that they would need to read all the way to the end of the post to find out what it was. Add to that a picture of a family tree and we were all set.
And it worked.
That post has turned out to be the most visited of all that I’ve posted, beating the previous record by some distance.
But why? Was it that an unknown fact just has to be discovered? Was the information I gave just too tantalizing to ignore? Or did the statement of wonderful news lead the reader to create assumptions regarding what was going to be divulged?
My little baby sister ( she’s in her thirties but will always be my baby sister ) told us that she’s pregnant so my wife and I are going to be Auntie and Uncle but I’ve since been told that when everyone read the opening statement they’d thought that the impending bundle of joy was going to be landing a little closer to home and we were going to be parents.
I did it on purpose, the subtle misdirection, just to see if it would have any effect and it highlighted perfectly the power that the literary equivalent of a card trick, can have. We all know the feeling. The book you’re reading is leading you in one direction and then at the very last minute, reveals itself to be something totally different, leaving us with our mouth stuck open in shock. In film terms, The Sixth Sense.
It’s a vital tool in storytelling. It creates a false impression of what’s going on and delivers the telling switch at the end that causes you to have to re-check all of the details in the book. How could I have missed that? On the second read – with the benefit of forewarning, the whole story becomes a vastly changed tableau.
But that trick can also go horrible wrong.
We all know that feeling as well. You can just see the twist coming from page one. All the details are pointing you in one direction but you just know that there’s going to be a ‘ta-da’ reveal of something else at the end. In film terms, M.Nights later work has some unfortunate examples.
I’ve tried my hand at this when I’ve been working on different bits and pieces with varying results. My short story ‘TRUE LOVE’, beautifully read by an insanely talented friend of mine DrNeevil, tries to play with this idea. Give it a listen if you haven’t already and see if the story works.
I’m still looking at the ways to use any and all weapons in my writers arsenal to help create the story I’m after and literary slight of hand can be, if used well, a devastatingly effective method.
All I’ve got to do is learn how to do it properly rather than land on my face.