Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 62 - Dancing With Tropes

Still doing more reading and plotting than anything else.

I found myself mulling tropes. In particular, I noticed today, as I read a book about a man framed for murder, that the "Elaborate Frame Up" trope is actually pretty similar to the "Gaslight" trope. (The "Gaslight" being a term from the movie of that same name, in which the villain sneakily destroys the victim's credibility -- even with herself -- usually making the victim think she's crazy.) 

Looking closer at tropes and patterns not only gives me ideas (and also something more to play with in story games), but it's also a great way to review what the audience might be thinking -- or more specifically, what they might be expecting.

This is something for mystery writers to keep in mind: very often, experienced readers can spot the killer or the twist not from your clues, but from the way you handle the patterns they've seen before.  No matter how elaborately you set up the clues and the crime, the audience still might skip past it all and think: "Hmmm, charming likeable character who has an unbreakable alibi... yep, he dun it!"

This is one of the things I like about the Lockridges, btw (the classic mystery writers I'm reading right now, mostly out of print): they had a way of recognizing what the clever reader would be thinking and then bringing it right out in the open a page later.  So many writers try to bury such suspicions -- by giving the character an unbreakable alibi, for instance -- and it backfires.  But when the writer acknowledges my thoughts by letting his detective think the same thing a moment later, he can more easily lead me astray by letting the detective then use that insight to start a new avenue of investigation.

In the meantime, since the subject of Gaslight came up, AND it's Robert Cummings' birthday, I'll send you to the post I wrote about him and one of my favorite movies in the Gaslight tradition: Bob Cummings and Sleep My Love.

It also happens to be my Dad's birthday, and so today in his honor, we made real, homemade milkshakes -- the kind with the milk crystals and imperfectly blended chocolate that he loved. 

See you in the funny papers.

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