Friday, 1 June 2007


I accidentally caught a bit of some gameshow yesterday. I might've interpreted it incorrectly, but here's what I made of it:

Members of the public get up on the stage and do whatever they can by way of entertainment. The studio audience have a button each. When they are bored of the act, they press their button. When fifty percent of the audience have pressed their button, the performer/s is/are cast from the stage.
The object is for the performer/s to survive for as long as possible: at regular milestones, cash is added to their money pool.
There might even be another objective which is to survive longer than the other performers. Don't know.

Anyhoo, what interested me was the performance indicator: the meter at the bottom of the screen that measured the percentage of audience members who had pressed their buttons.
In this way, there is a clear visual representation of when people are getting bored with an act.
Wouldn't it be great to have something similar for your writing!

This one guy was introduced as some kind of extreme juggler. Here's the key bit: he had, I think, three feats to perform, culminating in some brilliantly dangerous climax.

At that point, I wondered to myself how many people would hold out for this climax; how would this performer string out this anticipation?; how long could he sustain interest in any one feat before moving to the next?
Again, you can see how relevant this is to writing!
This also ties in with my friend's experiments in repetition in music and anticipation in pauses.

As you'd expect, he went for a few seconds juggling daggers before anyone registered boredom. He really eked the daggers out. He almost hit the first milestone on the daggers alone! I was bored of the daggers, but would I have pressed my button? No. Next to him were swords! I wanted to see him do stuff with swords. And I wanted to see this brilliantly dangerous climax that I should not try at home. The daggers twirled through the air - yeah, yeah, seen that now - and they twirled some more - c'mon mate, show us what you do with swords. The guy was onto a winner!

I was watching not because I was interested in what was happening, but because I wanted to see what was going to happen!

Anyhoo, he eventually got onto the swords and stuck one down his throat and everyone pressed their button. Well, I think they did: I certainly pressed mine because sword swallowing is dull and, if he were to spend as long on the swords as he did on the daggers (and I don't know if this was the case, but he had created that expectation in me), I wasn't going to give this guy any more of my time.
So I did something else instead.

This demonstrates the remarkable power of anticipation. Do not underestimate its power.
It also demonstrates the need for a good pay-off.

There were also two girls in gold hotpants doing pole dancing.


R1X said...

Tim Kring (Creator and Producer of new hit series - Heroes) was doing an interview and he was talking about avoiding this anticipation anti-climax, and how the script writers of Heroes specifically looked at the suspense, set ups, climaxes, and info dumps from a pov of time spent drawing them out for the benefit of audience anticipation, whilst making sure that that length of time best fitted how big the climax to it was, to avoid - as with some other shows - audience anticlimax.

On a side note, wouldn't it have been great if the whole audience had pressed their boredom buttons and it put the sword swallower off... killing him! Who's to blame?

solv said...

How does one determine the scale of a climax I wonder?
The degree of change it creates maybe?