Plot, Pacing, and Structure
The Significance of Plot without Conflict
• The storyteller's job is to create expectation and then just when the expected result seems inevitable, the narrative takes a surprising turn. I have to disagree, in that what you mention is the method. The storyteller’s job, like that of the poet, is to manipulate the reader’s emotion. People come to us for something more interesting than what their life offers, seeking what they would like to have, but don’t. Thus in bad economic times readers and audiences seek comedy to relieve the tension. In good times drama, which they don’t have to live with, is desirable. But reading, in both cases is to achieve a temporary change in emotional outlook, as an entertainment. That’s why there’s such an emphasis on showing. Making the reader view the character's world as the character is the easiest method with which to create a rapport between character and reader. I agree that the unexpected is titillating, but the feeling that we’re in over our heads and must find a solution before it’s too late is what hooks the reader. Alfred Hitchcock’s films almost never had people jumping out of closets, or suddenly appearing ninjas. Instead, he relied on suspense. He’d put two men at a table talking, then show the viewer that there was a bomb under the table, ticking. Elsewhere, people were frantically searching for the location of the bomb, or racing to where the men were, setting up a situation where what happens is uncertain. Perhaps the men at the table will leave, or discover the bomb. Perhaps the people seeking the bonb will arrive and save the men. Perhaps they won’t. The men, unaware of the frantic activity talk on. If one of them moves his knee might hit the bomb and cause him to look. Perhaps the phone rings, but one of the men says, “Let it go. If they want you they’ll call back.” It rings again, while the clock moves toward zero and the viewer shouts, “Answer the damn phone,” at the screen. A simple scene. No surprises, but the manipulation of the audience’s emotions makes it memorable. We often lose track of that, and focus on events and surprises. But in my mind, job one is to screw with the reader’s mind, not report events.