Friday, June 4, 2010

Give me more than the 'Gotcha'!

I was going to post this on my blog but I thought it would be fitting here at the brigade to introduce myself.

Hi folks! I'm Rae Lori. I'm a multi-genre author, artist, sci-fi/fantasy lover and all around dreamer.

I'm also a repeat reader. If I find a book or movie I like, I want to experience it over and over again. That's why my Aliens dvd is just about worn off and why HBO may be sending me fruit baskets with the amount of times I've watched Taken in the past few weeks. ;-)

Books are no different, especially if it's an adventure/SF/F type.

Last night, I was thinking about the movie Knowing. Remember that one from a year or so back? The post apocalyptic Cage/Proyas feature had an intriguing premise and since this was from the director of Dark City, I just had to check it out. I enjoyed it the first time. Was still clinging to my seat a second time. Thinking about recently, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go in for a third time.

This was a movie with a 'gotcha' story.

The main events occur to the main characters never giving up too much information at once, but offering it little by little until the final climax of the film when it all comes together. Now, granted, sometimes the 'gotcha' works. Sometimes, as in the case of thrillers and mysteries, the 'gotcha' makes you want to go back to see how everything fits together. But beyond that I need something more to keep me pinned to the story and clamoring to come back. I need great characters and meaty development (not to mention some awesome worldbuilding).

Case in point is the psychological horror movie The Uninvited (minor spoilers ahead). The twist ending caught me off guard and I had to rewind the movie and watch it again from the start to catch all the little clues the story left to hint toward the ending. From the writer's perspective, I loved how this was written as a POV and the audience isn't quite sure if there were two personalities at work or well hidden psychosis with a dark streak. Does it work upon multiple viewings? Hard to say. It definitely works as a gotcha storyline because we're lead to keep going with each question raised until we get to the end where all our questions are answered. The characters are pretty straight forward and there are some 'jump' moments with creepy things scaring the characters but other than that, once the wizard if from behind the curtain, not much else is left.

Proyas did an amazing job with the 'gotcha' type of storyline with Dark City. Throughout the story there are clues as we follow our main character whom the audience identifies with most, John Murdoch, to find out if he is really a killer, why his wife feels distant from him and just who the heck  those pale dudes in top hats and trenchcoats are and why those buildings keep changing! Even though all the answers are giving to us by the end, Dark City excels because of its characters, setting and atmospheric world building. I, for one, love the 40s setting mixed with futuristic space. I love how Emma and John react with one another and the mythology of The Strangers. By the end of the movie, it's one of those rare endings for me that I want to see what happens after the credits roll. I imagine what it will be like for Emma to fall in love with John all over again and for John to fall in love with Emma for the first time. All the while, a new city is rebuilt and a new human civilization begins.

The gotcha is great for a hook. After all, as a reader I love to be grabbed right off the bat and I want to grab the reader as soon as possible in the story to keep them riveted for the next hundred or so pages. But I also want that re-readability factor where once that book is closed, the characters are still strong enough to stay in the reader's imaginations. Hopefully strong enough for a re-read or two. ;-)

So give me more than the 'gotcha' by the end of the book. Give me an unforgettable journey in characterizations, imaginative worlds and a place where I can lose myself for a few hours. By the end, I'll be jumping out of my seat and eager to flip right back to page one!


  1. I love a good "Gotcha" moment, too. It's harder than most people think to create. Have you tried Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn trilogy? Major gotcha! And very well written.

  2. I so agree that it's the characters and their personal journeys that lock that story into your brain. Clearly I didn't read A Wrinkle in Time seven times as a kid for the plot, or I would have gotten bored after a time or two and moved on. As both a reader and writer, if I don't feel connected to the characters I never feel immersed in the story.

    Great post!

    @JALETA, I haven't thought of those books in YEARS. I loved them so much I wrote Tad Williams a letter (and he wrote back!).

  3. Jaleta, so true! It's difficult to work a good one but when it works, it's very rewarding!

    I haven't checked out the Tad Williams trilogy yet but I'm dashing over to add it to my wishlist/to buy shelf. Thanks for the mention!

    Well said, Sharon!

  4. Along the same lines as Knowing is a new release from an author repped by Janet Reid, Patrick Lee's debut : The Breach. If you have a strong desire to complete lose a weekend read this. I read it then beat land speed records shoving the book into my 16yr old son's face to make him read it so I could have someone to discuss it with. He loved it too. Lee does the whole whirly, tense action a minute and then smacks you with a gotcha that, I kid you not, he set up in the first few pages. Its a great read with a better ending than Knowing. Of course it is, he's repped by the Shark. lol.

  5. Oh, I'm intrigued just by the title, Leslie. The Breach. Makes me want to read it even without the glowing endorsement. Another for my Leaning Tower of TBR. :)

    And yes, I love a good plot twist that you never see coming...especially one that, on the second read, you discover all the hints and foreshadowing but it still took you totally by surprise.

  6. Leslie, that sounds completely awesome. I'm going to add it to my own tower. Lol, Laurie. I love that. I so sympathize because I have my own leaning tower but this sounds like an amazing book. I've been itching for a great book that has me guessing to the end.


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