Sunday, March 26, 2017
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Audiences Demand Skeptical Heroes
Whatever fantastical element your story has, whether it’s an actual sci-fi or fantasy element, or just a conspiracy of some sort (which almost every story has, in some form), at least one of your heroes should roll his or her eyes at first, because that’s what your reader will be doing. As your hero is gradually convinced that the problem is real, your audience will be as well.
One of the most alienating things is when everybody gets on board with the plot too quickly, before the audience is ready. When you have a lone hero, that hero must be skeptical. When the hero has a close companion, the hero can be credulous while the companion is the doubter.
I’ve said before that one great way to make a plot is to ask “What if it’s all true?” You can bring your audience along in any direction, even giving them a plot that they would normally find offensive or outrageous, as long as at least one of the heroes starts off saying the same thing the audience says, “It can’t be true!”
One of the reason later season “X-Files” didn’t work is that it didn’t make any sense that Scully would be a skeptic anymore. She had been our way into the story, but now the whole story had gone around the bend, and the audience tended to just roll our eyes.