What do you guys expect when you sit for a movie or when you pull yourself to start that new series with 7 seasons, 24 episodes each? The latter is a huge commitment when compared to the former, isn’t it? I mean we are going to invest loads of time in it. But let it be anything, series or movie or even a scene. We are committing ourselves and our time and we would definitely expect something from it. It can be humor, love, drama, action, horror, there is so much to expect. But there is one thing none of us want, none of us expect it and hope is not there- PREDICTABILITY. In anything we watch, we do not want to know what would happen next, we don’t want the obvious but we don’t want the illogical too. If this is what the audience wants, how do the aspiring filmmakers give a story then? Well if they don’t want the predictable, give them the unpredictable. As I researched through the different movies and series I have watched, I could come up with few points to get that unpredictable story-line pumping.
Chuck the Obvious.
The most basic rule. To give something unpredictable, make sure the most obvious ones are eliminated. Whenever someone watches a film or series, they tend to imagine the story in their head with respect to what’s going on already. Audiences build their own movie and see if it matches with the one going on screen. It is here you have to work. Think as your audience, think of the different scenarios they would build and break it. The one scenario that you build is logical and fitting but the one that the audience least expect.
Let’s take an example from the very first scene of Thani oruvan,
We see a boy being born in a political leader’s car, we see him securing top ranks, we are guessing he must be the hero as he grows up, and just then his father is asked to take blame for a murder , he intervenes and tells he will do it, just when we think it’s because of love, he throws a twist at us, he instead speaks business and also later kills the man who wasn’t actually dead to make sure his plan works, and when everyone thinks this brilliant lad is our protagonist, turns out we were wrong. It’s the villain. We love this guy instantly. We love the movie instantly. See chucking the obvious works wonders.
Play Smart! Go Hiding!
No you don’t go hiding, let your clues do. Sometimes audiences are so keen on watching the actual action, so engrossed they don’t notice the tiny details. Now we have two challenging things to do here:
a) Write a scene very interesting and captivating that takes our audience with it, giving them no time to look at the background. One can also manipulate them here to believe that what they see here is the turning point or the antagonist, the murder, the ghost anything. But,
b) Finding the perfect clue that can be hid in this background action that is actually brilliant when dug yet should go unnoticeable in the beginning.
Though an old example now, the first Tamil film that comes to mind in using this trick very effectively is Superstar’s Chandramukhi. Be honest, none of us had the clue that Jyothika was the one who did everything all along. But it did not come out of the blue too, when Rajni recalls the scenes we actually notice what we have missed, I even rewound when the actual scene happened, turns out we did miss everything and the director tricked us and kept us to believe that it was the elder sister of Nasser who is doing everything with her dumb servant. P.Vasu sure knows how to do horror films, if only we had good directors now to do the same.
Never Make the Audience Feel Stupid.
Another very important point to keep in mind. Though our audience might prefer and like the unpredictability, they sure don’t want to feel stupid or foolish at the end of the day. Come on, you just made them sit for three hours in one place and then you say either whatever happened from beginning was hoax or totally bring it down to something very simple that they ruled it out, it would definitely anger them and make them feel stupid.
I am pretty sure all of us watched S.J.Suryah’s Isai which actually brought us back that little hope that the Kushi , Valli famous director is back, but he chose to end it with his Aa Aa heroine yet another time making us the fools. The film though intolerable at times, had us watching it with some interest until, until S.J.Suryah was woken up by the one person we didn’t want to see, Nila to tell us everything after all was his dream.
Sometimes telling the audience nothing also becomes a disaster, remember the film by Parthiban, Kadhai-Thiraikadhai-vasanam-iyakam where he actually made the story pretty interesting and when we finally started riding his film, he said “go out, write your own climax”. See audience either likes to see justification for their climax or a justifiable climax, never a no-climax because that makes them feel stupid for sitting in a movie where the director didn’t even take pains to write climax. Now please do not confuse this with Balachander’s and Bharathiraja’s climaxes because that didn’t leave us hanging in the middle of the story, it just asked us to perceive whatever we wanted to perceive.
Work for the Right Response.
There are different ways the audience might react when they see the twist revealing itself. Now what do you want the audience reaction to be? Do you want them to tell, “How did I not see that coming?” or you want them to be puzzled the whole time and then give the right explanation that makes them tell “What better way to end it” or do you want to give subtle clues which will help them to clarify the climax at the end and make them say “Oh, yeah, it makes total sense now”
To achieve the first one, you have to make sure that they believe there is no other fitting end to it, only then will they feel amazed and surprised.
The second one can be done by simply not letting them find out any possible scenarios, meaning the film or series go out in such a way that people are not even able to predict anything and have no idea what’s next, this is when the ending you give becomes the only best one, because well you gave them no other choice :P.
Last but not the least, write a story that gives a small hint to the bigger ending, the hint might seem of no use when dropped but later turns out to be the possible way that makes perfect sense.
The one best example to all the above three scenarios would be the famous Game of Thrones. It has all three reactions from the audience in all its seasons. We went surprised when Sansa brought the army to fight for Jon Snow.
We didn’t know what Cerci was up to with the little children until she burned down the entire building.
We sure knew Jon Snow was more than just a bastard with the role he played, but we never knew what it was, until it was revealed that he was after all the man of Ice and Fire, which at the end made total sense.
Unpredictability is unpredictable by itself; one cannot force but sure can bring it in through any of the above ways and by ways more than these. How do you think a story can become unpredictable, let us know in the comments section below.