I know what you’re thinking. It’s all about the characters. He gets to choose which ones live or die. He gets to decide which ones have happy endings and which ones don’t. He has complete control over every aspect of their lives.
Well that’s all true, and it is rather good. But it’s not exactly what I had in mind. When I was talking about manipulating people, I meant you out there – all you readers.
To me, a big part of engaging with an audience is making a direct connection with their emotions. Their are times when I try to make them happy – times when I want to make them laugh. And other times when I want them to feel sad. Basically, I’m trying to pull their strings, to control how they feel. And the best thing is when you get feedback from a reader that confirms you’ve been able to achieve what you planned.
There’s a funny kind of flip side to this though. You start to become more aware of when other writers are doing it to you. Sometimes you don’t mind, and you just give into it – that’s part of the joy in being a reader or a viewer. But other times I’ve rebelled, and I’ve said flat out “I know what you’re trying to do and I’m not going to be your puppet.”
The first time I really remember it happening was watching the movie Forrest Gump. I sat through it, feeling that the whole thing was incredibly contrived, and I could really feel the emotional manipulation it was attempting. Needless to say, I’ve hated the movie ever since.
So, the next time you’re reading a book, or watching a movie, think about us writers, sitting in the back with our hands pulling on the strings. Yes, that’s us, hidden away in the shadows, with the crafty smiles on our faces. More powerful than you ever could imagine – we are the puppet masters.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as