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Star Trek and surprises

May 10, 2009

Yes, I was one of the many who saw Star Trek this weekend. And, apart from a few holes, it was good, very entertaining and lots of fun, especially if you’re a fan of the franchise and can appreciate the references.

But one of the best parts of the movie is the surprises. J.J. Abrams is good at surprising his audience. He does it with Lost and did it with Alias and with Mission: Impossible III.

It’s a lesson all writers would do well to learn, because if you can surprise your audience, whether they’re watching the story in a movie or TV show or reading it in a book or article, they’ll keep coming back for more.

SPOILER ALERT!

If you haven’t seen Star Trek yet, you might want to stop reading.

Abrams does a great job of setting up the audience’s expectation then breaking it in the scene when Scotty beams Spock and Kirk to Nero’s ship. Scotty says in an off-hand type of way that he’s going to beam them to the cargo area of Nero’s ship because no one should be in there. Whether Scotty messed up or his assumption is wrong, Spock and Kirk are beamed into an area of the ship filled with Nero’s men, and our heroes must immediately shoot their way out.

As a viewer, I relaxed when Scotty said they would be beamed into a safe area. It’s a tense time in the story, and that safety ramp was a relief. But when the camera showed all Nero’s people, it brought laughter because of the surprise and even more tension — as well as the desire to keep watching to see what happens next.

This is exactly what our writing should have on every page. A story should lead its reader down one path, then quickly change the direction. Constant surprises will keep readers interested, and an interested reader is a loyal one.

Surprise me!

Write On!

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One comment

  1. It didn’t surprise me when the cargo bay was full of Nero’s men. I actually thought that would be the case when Scotty said no one should be in there. What DID shock me was Nero successfully destroyed Vulcan. That threw a monkeywrench into the Star Trek mythos, didn’t it?



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