Behind the Curtain

When you start to study the craft of writing, to really roll up your sleeves and dig into the guts of the matter, you have to let go of something. You have to let go of being surprised. Sure, there will still be moments and pieces that catch you off guard, but they’ll be fewer and farther between. The more you study storytelling, the more patterns emerge. You start seeing plot twists and surprise endings from a mile away.

For me, my knowledge reached critical mass many years ago during a movie. Before that moment, I was almost always surprised by stories, experiencing each moment as it unfolded along with the characters. But after months of research, with books that actually warned me that they were pulling back the curtain, I sat through the first fifteen minutes of the movie and then started to cry. I suddenly and with perfect clarity realized they were going to kill off my favorite character, a character I had loved since my childhood (the people I was with were very confused until they saw it unfold).

After that, I started to predict plotlines with eerie accuracy. But it was the cost of understanding structure in a way that would make my writing stronger. Not being surprised as often isn’t really that bad. I still enjoy the stories I watch and read, and now I can appreciate them for the craftsmanship as well as the content. Sacrificing some of the magic to become a magician is a price as an author I’m willing to pay.

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