Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The predictability problem

So, I just finished reading The Doomsday Book. If you haven't read it yet, do! It's very good and very compelling story-telling.

Katey asked me if I had predicted certain things, so I kept track of things that I had guessed ahead of time. I noticed that I was doing a lot of it, not by deduction, but by comparative geekery. For example:

"I liked this relationship, but the whole dying on the brink of rescue thing I predicted because of Titanic."

"Yes, I had that theory. It was Timeline meets Andromeda Strain."

I do a lot of this. My original theory that Dumbledore would be killed by Snape in Book 6 so he could turn spy against Voldemort came because of a single scene in Prisoner of Azkaban, but whenever I justified my theory to people, it came down to the "Obi-Wan Complex."

I have, over the years, become pretty good at guessing endings. I'm proud of myself when I'm able to come up with a slightly or very unexpected plot twist. But on the other hand, there is a certain charm to predictability.

For example, we all know the Cinderella fairy tale, but the retellings of it are ingenious at times. Ella Enchanted. Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad. We all go into Beastly knowing that Belle will transform the Beast in the end, but the journey is unique. On a more prosaic level, I remember telling a friend that I guessed the ending of Titanic because we know how many men survived and none of them were Leo's character. (This is also the friend who was appalled to hear the spoiler that the boat sinks!)

That is part of why I took a different turn to the hero's quest in The Deserter. I have this very loyal character who turns her back on the person to whom she is most loyal because he is making bad choices. There aren't that many epic adventures with that as a motif.

And now I'm working on Swan Lake redux. You can see it in animated version, by the American Ballet Theater, in Black Swan. I'm trying to decide which of the possible endings I want to use. I do not want to go with Tchaikovsky's brother's rewrite, where the lovers commit suicide and are granted eternal life for their sacrifice. The sorcerer is ten generations back, so it would be unfair to go with the original ending of killing the sorcerer to break the spell. On the other hand, all of that means that it will be a long and hard road for everyone involved.

But is it worth it any other way?

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