Tuesday, 28 February 2012

I See

Something's been bothering me for years now. A mystery.
Every now and then, I happen upon another clue, but I've never been able to find any peace of mind. It's one of my many heels that didn't quite make it into the river Styx.

Is it better to withhold information from the reader/viewer and then deliver it as a powerful reveal (provided it has been adequately foreshadowed), or to share the information with the reader/viewer but withhold it from the characters? Are we in a bathtub of apples and pears?

Beyond that, you have all manner of perfect and imperfect information permutations.
I just find it hard to choose - to make an informed decision.
So, taking the advice of a wise lecturer I once studied under, I shall spit this stuff out and see if I can finally find some peace of mind.

Hitchcock's argument is rather persuasive. He said something along the lines of If you're going to plant a bomb under a table, let the audience see it.
Makes good sense. As those characters sit at the table, eating or chatting or drinking or milking reindeer, every moment is imbued with tension.
Consider, too, Dallas, captain of the Nostromo, crawling through the ventilation system in search of the full-grown alien. At first, we don't know where the alien is. We share the characters' knowledge. The sensors pick up a moving entity; again, our knowledge is that of the characters'. If Hitchcock was correct, then would it not have been 'better' if we knew where the alien was, but the characters didn't? Or how about if communications went down, and we and the crew could see the alien closing in on Dallas, whilst he was deaf and blind, alone in the dark?
See my confusion? Where's Mimsy and his hairy shoulders..?

Ten minutes later...

Okay, that's the refresher done. (I find myself requiring refreshers on pretty much everything these days. Some of my spellings have become atrocious! And I keep forgetting basic punctuation stuff - either that, or I've gotten into awful habits. Note to self: Sort it out you lazy ass. Note from self: I am you bossy old penis head. Why d'you think I'm sat here blogging after an exhausting day's work? Note to self: You keep meaning to order Eats, Shoots and Leaves off Amazon. Do it now. Note from self: Done it. And how amusing to see so many reviewers fretting over their every hyphen. Note to self: Sorry for being bossy. Note from self: No worries. Sorry about the penis head remark.)

In MYSTERY the audience knows less than the characters.
In SUSPENSE the audience and characters know the same information.
In DRAMATIC IRONY the audience knows more than the characters.

If we look at the effects of these ways of connecting the audience to the story, and if we understand our audience, we can make informed decisions right?
Paraphrase time.
Mystery is about arousing audience's curiosity - keeping her in the dark, sprinkling hints and red herrings, revealing at climax. Outcome is always certain: detective always catches killer. Ends on up state.
Suspense might end on up or down state: nobody knows how it will turn out. In this relationship, we feel empathy with protag; in Mystery we feel sympathy. Suspense accounts for some ninety percent of movies.
In Dramatic Irony, we feel compassion for someone we see heading for disaster.

Based on these observations, it appears as though Hitchcock was in the minority: looks like Suspense has, for whatever reason, become more popular than Dramatic Irony. I'd suggest that this is, at least in part, because Suspense allows for the greatest degree of bonding between audience and protag and, hence, the greatest scope for deep emotional stimulation.
How does that sound?
Captain Brain... You happy now?

Here's a humbling game.
Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome.
I really can't think I've seen reviews like this before; pro and user comments alike are overwhelmingly positive.

I've performed a little dissection of the trial hour; in-so-doing, I find myself wondering if I'm looking in the right places and asking the right questions. I can examine and measure the pace - the frequency of developments and the clever employment of loudspeakers through which the antag repeatedly taunts the protag; and I can understand the variety - the movement between strings of inventory item quests to puzzles or narrative developments, and the quantity of back-tracking (and, indeed, the inexorable revisiting of the slow-moving lift does become wearisome). Polish is self-evident. Dialogue is sloppy: there are more than enough flatulent adverbs in there to upset any literary agent; but that could be a translation issue, and hasn't appeared to upset a single player. However, the suspense it generates carries it through. Suspense. I remember with crystal clarity Peter Cox championing suspense - expectation.
There's a line of dialogue right at the end of the trial. It's genius. Brief context: Sam's a journo; he's investigating a narcissistic killer; killer phones Sam asking him to come on over; Sam bikes over there (for a peculiarly long time in the opening cut-scene); Sam discovers that killer has taken his girlfriend Anna hostage; Sam is forced to play through killer's (IMHO laborious) puzzles and deadly traps in order to save girlfriend; along the way, Sam discovers killer's other victims - embalmed and posed as works of art. After solving a major choke puzzle, killer's voice comes over loudspeakers again:

Wonderful! I think you're proud of yourself! Aren't you? I've got many more interesting things waiting for you. Anna is soon going to appear on stage in her first act. No, no, it's not what you're thinking, but it will be very interesting I promise you.

What a great place to suspend the player! All those images and questions requiring resolution.
And, to follow up on my previous post, this game appears to play for some eight or nine hours!
At the time of typing, 115 out of 122 players recommend this game. (That's 94%!) There's clearly lots for me to learn buried away in there.
I just don't get how it only made position four in the charts.

David Hockney was hanging out with Andrew Marr last night. They drove to David's beloved copse 'on the road to nowhere'. They stepped from the Land Rover and David beamed in divine ecstasy. Andrew was puzzled by David's reaction, for he saw only grey clouds and bare trees. David was puzzled by Andrew's reaction: he saw shapes and colours and all manner of things hidden from us mortals.


Anonymous said...

Oh i know somebody with the Dorian Grey Syndrome - oh its terrible (btw I cant stand this person...)

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