Ok, well, I went the last two days without a post, but I have two planed for today to make up for it.
First, I want to discuss what I believe is 'fair' in storytelling, in regards to structure and the information revealed to the audience. This is going to relate to no writing in general, with no particular media, however I'm going to use a film to get my points across. Also, in fairness to you, I'm going to discuss the film "A Perfect Getway", which I watched the other day, so if you haven't seen it (and perhaps plan to), you should maybe skip this post for the time being as I'll be giving away the entire film. So, you have been warned.
I'd heard all sorts of comments about "A Perfect Getaway" before I got around to watching it three years after it's initial release. I'd heard it was 'no good', I'd heard it had a wicked twist, and I'd heard it was 'excellent'. The truth is it is none of these. I have points to make, but I'll keep many of them to myself as this is not a film review (perhaps I should write one, however... It's been a while).
Anyway, the basic plot concerns itself with newlyweds Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich honeymooning in Hawaii, they meet up with another couple on one of the islands (Timothy Olyphant andKiele Sanchez) and begin travelling together. Word hits that there is a couple, male and female, murdering tourists on these islands. Naturally, they begin to think that their newfound 'friends' may very well be the killers.
It's a generic idea, that in the right hands could have been worthwile, but David Twohy's goofy characterizations and poor storytelling decisions aside, as well is inconsistent acting from everyone involved, there is one fatal flaw in the film - the twist.
After we spend the entire film watching Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich become increasingly more paranoid about their travel buddies, we see them discuss how they're going to get away. They find a picture of the suspected murderers on the internet, and Steve Zahn mentions that "It looks like them." To which Milla Jovovich replies, "It could be anybody." So... after all of this business, we learn that it is in fact Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are in fact the real killers. To which I exclaim, "What the hell?"
Although honestly, I did not see that coming, nor do I imagine anyone who watched that movie did - if you did, congratulations, you must be a damned genius. David Two spends the first two-thirds of the film feeding us false information and holding back the real stuff. He then has the nerve to slap this twist in our face as if to say, "Look how brilliant I am, there's no way you saw that coming."
Well, you're right Mr. Twohy, I did not. But if I can offer you some advice, any time you need to backtrack and show the audience a ten minute flachback to explain how we got 'here'... That's bad storytelling.
Which brings me to where I started. What is 'fair' to the audience when you're writing a story? It is your story, and you can do whatever you want with it, but deceiving your audience in such a blatant fashion is not artistically ethical. I'm going to compare "A Perfect Getaway" with another 'twist' movie, "The Sixth Sense". M. Night Shyamalan's film was obviously conceived with the writer starting at the twist, and building a story around that central moment. "A Perfect Getaway" was, in my estimation, conceived in much the same way. What's the ultimate difference between the success of these two films? In Shyamalan's film, when you reached that twist, you could look back and see how impeccably everything was put together. Shyamalan hid everything just out of sight for the audience, but the information was there, he didn't need to deliberately deceive you to make his twist effective, it seemed as natural and organic as it possibly could have.
Twohy's script on the other hand, was also likely developed around its twist, yet he obviously couldn't find a way to get there in a linear fashion. As a result he has to deliberately deceive his audience, not by simply placing red herrings within the plot, but by blatantly lying to his audience. He provides conversations and events that either simply didn't happen, or if they did they make zero sense within the film. It's poor storytelling, and it's not fair to the audience.
I believe that a writer has a certain responsibility to their audience, whether it's a book, or a script, or anything else - the story needs to feel natural. Regardless of how fantastic or otherworldy the story happens to be, it needs to unfold in a natural fashion. As soon as you start providing your audience with lies veiled as truth you start to lose them... unless your very clever and can work it out in an organic fashion. If you can't do that, however, either find another way to work it out, or move on to something else.
It's the writerly equivelent of knowingly luring a friend to an oasis in search of water, only to reveal it is in fact, only a mirage... Then laughing in their face.
I'll have another blog later this evening, a little more personal continuation of this subject matter.