So, I finally saw Pacific Rim a couple weekends ago.
I opted to give this movie a pass when it came out in July, believing it to be just another dumb summer blockbuster involving robots, a la Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise.
(I loved the original 80s Transformers cartoon, yet there’s so much to hate about those movies.)
As a reader at heart, I tend not to like most movies I watch, especially those that come out in the summer. If I watch a summer flick at all, it’s usually on video, and for the benefit of some mindless entertainment after a tough week at work.
But Pacific Rim surprisingly gave me a lot to think about, particularly with regards to its characters.
Every story, by definition, contains suspense in one form or another.
The most common form is the Predictable-Yet-Still-Desirable (from pt. 1), wherein the reader/viewer already has a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen before it happens, but wants to see it anyway.
This may be either to feel the satisfaction of having been correct in his/her predictions, to see exactly how it happens, or to be already emotionally prepared to vicariously undergo a universal human experience.
Somewhat less common is a second form of suspense, which, ironically, is probably the form that more readily comes to mind when one hears the word “suspense”: the unpredictable-and-thus-unputdownable, which keeps the reader glued to the book, and still reading long after s/he should have gone to bed.
All stories by their very nature contain the precursors of this type of suspense. How could they not? Stories come to us described by blurbs designed to hint at the plot and its major turning points, but ultimately give nothing away.
They’re the very definition of suspense, for who knows what might happen between the lines of that enticing paragraph on the back of the book or DVD case?
Not all stories, however, retain that suspense.
Suspense, as a concept, is something I’m pretty sure all writers comprehend.
“A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen.” (Source: Google.)
After all, most writers begin their journey as a reader, and most readers love the thrill of a story unfolding – of experiencing every reversal and triumph that befall the characters as the plot moves along its way toward an as-yet unforeseen conclusion.
True, some readers do read the very last page of the book first – perhaps to ensure the story will have a happy ending. However a last page really doesn’t convey much when taken out of context of all that comes before it, so even such a reader will be forced to weather the ebbs and flows of a storyline in the sequence in which they occur.
As a reader myself, however, it occurred to me recently that there are actually two types of suspense in storytelling. Taken in turn, each type produces the following reaction in my head: