Pondering on predictability

So, the other day I was fattening my arse on the couch, browsing the wonderland of television. Spectre was on. I decided, what the hell, Imma give it a chance.

Mistake. It was like somebody drafted a list of the most likely Bond tropes, and the film cheerlessly checked each item in turn. I admit I didn’t last to the end, but reading the synopsis from Wikipedia, I see I didn’t miss a thing.

I like Daniel Craig as Bond, though, for what it’s worth. He’s hot. I just wish they’d given him better lines.

I think it’ll be decades before they make a truly surprising Bond film. I’m afraid you’ll have to thaw me from cryo to see Jane Bond. But I was thinking about that formulaic nature, and maybe it’s not all bad? Because, you know, for all my big talk, I loved Dredd.

I hate predictability, but at the same time, I need a bit of it to keep me in the loop. I think that’s the crux of formulas. When you mix in too much predictability, you get formulaic dross. But when you mix in too little, the cake falls apart.

Some of it must be connected to that Johnstone’s maxim on storytelling: you have to give the audience what it expects. I know that maxim may not make a whole lot of sense, given that I’m trying to rail against predictability here, but there’s the paradox – we gotta be predictable to be unpredictable.

Please don’t ask me how that works. I’m still trying to figure out the whole of it myself.

I should probably re-read Johnstone while I’m at it. Maybe you should, too?

Keith Johnstone. Try either Impro or Impro for Storytellers.


4 thoughts on “Pondering on predictability”

  1. That mix is constantly toyed with. At the same time a writer must keep the audience in mind and place them first when telling a story. We will give you your happy ending as predicted but for a little while we must keep you in doubt.


  2. I went to a writing workshop where they harped on always keeping the audience in mind, but someone really successful… maybe Gaiman or Whedon… said that it’s best to write what we love and that the audience will find us. I like that idea better – audiences are fickle and markets change.

    There was a really good article I read a while back on “literary cohesion” and how even though we want to be surprised, many of us also kind of want to guess the ending.
    I straight up want to know the ending. Sometimes I read the beginning, then the end, then the middle. Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ya, exactly! Keeping the audience in mind has some merit, but maybe not the way people think… I don’t think it’s good to think like, “Who’s the audience I’m selling this to?” Rather, I ask myself, “Who’s listening?” And that audience, that listener… they can be wholly imaginary. Like in epistolary novels.

      Yes! That’s a funny little contradiction, ain’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

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