Monday, February 20, 2012

Carnival of Thrills

Every composition is its own thriller, a unique and compelling ride that provides the necessary suspense, excitement and satisfaction to compel the audience to the conclusion.

Many authors equate a strong narrative to a roller-coaster, a thrill ride with countless ups and downs, sharp twists in the track and blind drops that keep the participants on the edge of their seats. To a degree this is a strong analogy for the perfectly balanced narrative.

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When participants choose a roller-coaster they have a certain set of preconceived notions about the experience and the expectations of what will be experienced. Presentation is at the foremost, the coaster typically has a theme be it horror, adventure or even action heroes. This establishes the tone for the ride and gives participants a set of emotions to expect. This then leads to the actual ride, the anticipation of the excitement, the suspense as the the coaster climbs each rise in the track, the fear as the drops are perceived, the excitement of the pacing and ultimate satisfaction from the whole experience.

Any narrative composition, even life, can be easily compared to a thrill ride like a roller-coaster but while this is sufficient in most cases it's not entirely accurate.

The reality of a carnival ride like a roller-coaster is that the participant is aware of what's in store for them. The track is easily visible, like a reader selecting a specific genre but in all instances, the strongest compositions emulate life. This is where the carnival ride diverges greatly from the single track roller-coaster ride.

Where a narrative does follow a path it is not a singular track bound for conclusion. A narrative, as life, is predicated on following choice and consequence. A singular choice may cause the track to drop from under your feet or climb to great heights. When characters in a narrative are subject to their own choices and the consequences of those choices, the audience can better relate than if it was an on-rails ride.

The individuals in a narrative are not merely characters designed to support the main attraction like props on a roller-coaster ride to add atmosphere. Ever individual is a product of their choices and the more that these connections are explored, the more the audience becomes invested in the composition. A strong narrative, like life, is not a restrictive roller-coaster but a full carnival of thrills. Every path is hidden,every ride, adventure and event concealed until the appropriate choices are made.

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing


Michele Shaw said...

"Every individual is a product of their choices." I think that says it all. It goes for real people and characters. What becomes of our choices dictates new paths all the time. The good thing about writing is the control of what will happen to the characters, because in life, no matter how much we want to control everything, we simply can't.

PW Creighton said...

Very well said Michele. In writing most think in terms of the track ride rather than a branching series of choices. The writer can see that it's a track but to the audience it should appear to be a split path of choices.

Amber said...

Great points! I personally like it when I don't know what is going to happen next, or am caught by surprise and didn't really see it coming. That's what life is about. Nothing is really ever known, so why should our stories be either. Also, a writer needs to have many experiences, live a full life, in order to be able to write a richer story. Again, with life experiences come surprises. Now to put them down on paper... :)

PW Creighton said...

Exactly, and that is what differentiates the best narratives from the pack. Thanks for stopping by Amber.

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