Don’t Write This, Part 1: Cheap Suspense Pop

As a writer and a reader, this one just pisses me off royally. It’s become a bigger and bigger trope over the past few years. It’s Cheap Heat at the W O R S T. You seen it in your favorite serial story telling. TV and Comics. Hell, some morons do it in an one-off movie.

The common formula: Start the episode/issue/movie with something SUPER SHOCKING! Someone laying there MURDERED and their last words being their own expression of confusion and surprise. It works better in serial story-telling because they build up a relationship. So you go, “Yeah this is SHOCKING! because these two are best buddies. How can one have killed the other?”

The catch: The rest of the issue/episode is…FLASHBACK! “Three Days Earlier” “Four Hours Ago” or whatever the time needs to get to the… ACTUAL START OF THE STORY! That’s the trope. That’s the gimmick. You artificially create suspense by starting in the middle of the story. So you spend an hour watching this show/ten minutes reading your comic and the entire time you are going “When is this going to make sense?” and that’s the problem.

The story isn’t as interesting. Instead of enjoying each moment as it progresses, you are just sitting there waiting for THE BIG REVEAL! This never lives up to the hype because it’s always something like: “One buddy is faking the other buddies death, so the real bad guy will reveal himself. It’s a deception!” The real deception is the so called suspense.

Let’s talk about classic movies. Would they have been as good if they started in the middle? Imagine if Jaws started with Quint offering to kill the shark, and the next hour was a flashback as you sit there going “So when do they hire Quint?” Raiders Of The Lost Ark started with Indy and Marion in Cairo, and the movie then asks you to wait while it explains their meeting and why Indy is hunting the Ark. Star Wars: A New Hope begins with the group rescuing Leia. Sucks doesn’t it?

If you want to write suspense, learn to write suspense. Read the greats. Yes sometimes the crime comes before you come in, but that’s because the story is about the consequences like the Tell-Tale Heart. Please, stop posting shit out of order just to confuse your audience.

They won’t always feel obligated to stick around.