Sunday, 23 August 2009

Dual Reality

Magritte's Empire of Light.

Bob McKee proposes three possible ways to connect the audience to the story using Curiosity and Concern:
1) Mystery: In Mystery the audience knows less than the characters.
2) Suspense: In Suspense the audience and characters know the same information.
3) Dramatic Irony: In Dramatic Irony the audience knows more than the characters.
Three super tools in the writers' tool box, and particularly suited to the variations of third person. Oh yes, it's a return to third person plotting and all its possibilities for rationing and controlling information!

After, ahem, a good few hours spent watching Derren Brown on 4oD, and more hours typing in permutations of 'Derren Brown how does he do it?' into my Google search bar (with and without expletives), I finally unearthed a good deal of his secrets! After the initial euphoria, I found myself saddened to have destroyed the mystery, and discovered the terrible truth that, in fact, the techniques are very simple but require years of careful practise and study, and lashings of innate talent and charisma. Better stick with writing then eh? (Insert your choice of smiley here.)

So, back to thinking up reversals, because the reader likes them a lot (oh, such a very lot!), and because I want more and more! Given that I'm unabashedly employing as many favourite elements of the page-turner as I can divine, I got to thinking about the old memory loss jewel and wondering how it might work under the supervision of Mystery, of Suspense, and of Dramatic Irony.

Typically, memory loss is rooted in Suspense: a character attempts to recall a piece of information which, when retrieved, will supply a brilliant reversal for both character and reader alike.
I'm into double-whammies at the moment: that is, I'm experimenting with quick-fire double reversals. I got to wondering what would happen if memory loss were presented as Dramatic Irony ...
In this way, a reversal is presented to characters and reader in the form of shared information - a momentous reversal which changes everything and creates incredible Suspense! - and then the characters forget this information and are separated from it, leaving the reader in Dramatic Irony! Then the reader can only observe helplessly as the characters forge blindly into destruction.

Anyhoo, more on reversals soon. For now, let's return to Derren Brown.

If you're unfamiliar with the psychokinetic touch, which is credited to Steve Banachek, you might enjoy this clip of Derren Brown touching Spearmint Rhino girls.
This pk touch trick, from Derren Brown: Mind Control 3, begins at 3 mins 48 seconds.
I'll also stick a variation on the trick up there in the YouTube section.

Escher's Puddle.

So here's how it's done:
(Really - you might want to watch the clips first!)


This trick relies on a concept called dual reality.

One girl has her eyes closed. Her 'reality' is now devoid of sight. But she still retains her kinaesthetic faculties right?
The other two girls share a different 'reality': they can see, but they can't experience the subject's sense of touch.
We share the visual 'reality' of the two girls because we watch through the camera lens. We don't share the kinaesthetic 'reality' of the subject.

In an instant, Derren turns to the two girls, distracts their attention, and taps the subject on the hand. The two girls don't notice this, and we don't see this either because the cameraman doesn't let us. Furthermore, our attention is diverted to the pretend taps several inches over the girl's hand. Whilst the technique sounds simple, the speed and precision with which Derren taps the subject's hand is astounding.

In the YouTube clip, the mentalist cannot rely on the cameraman for assistance, and so he sweeps his hands around the bride's arm, momentarily obscuring our view and tapping the girl's hand (with, I understand, the fourth finger). He then turns immediately to misdirection and taps the groom's hand, and that is where our attention is diverted (rather than Derren's pretend taps). Yes, we all clearly see him tapping the groom's hand, and do not consider the fact that he also tapped the bride's hand.

N.B. Naturally, this is a diluted account and makes no mention of the mentalist's ability to create rapport and trust, and to induce the subject into a compliant state. Note how the first Spearmint Rhino girl's blind reality is augmented with the words 'From now on ...' and how both girls are commanded to count in their minds and not out loud; in both cases, their realities are further distanced and held apart from the viewers'.

If you fancy hanging out with magical and mental folks to discuss dual reality performances, head off to the Magic Cafe!


In considering Bob McKee's proposed elements of Curiosity and Concern, we are simply toying with different realities. Our characters each have their own set of perception tools, as does our reader. When they are in tune, we work with Suspense. When the characters are aware of more than the reader, we are in Mystery. When the reader is aware of more than the characters, we are in Dramatic Irony.
It's worth considering not just the reversal, but who to throw it at!

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