Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A fantasy variant of Hitchcock's description of suspense vs. surprise

The difference between surprise and suspense taken from a quote by Hitchcock and transformed into a Fantasy example by yours truly.

Let’s imagine that a rather perfectionist wizard is sitting in the dining room of his tower, playing with both his children and his familiar, and then, when the grandfather clock by the window fails to chime at the stroke of midnight, he goes over to a take a look. Let us assume that there is an assassin behind the curtains near the clock … suddenly he leaps out and slits the wizard’s throat before leaping out the window. The audience is surprised, but before that surprise, they have only seen a very ordinary scene without any significance.

Let us instead look at a suspense scene. The assassin is behind the curtain and the audience is aware of this because they have seen the assassin sneak behind it. They have also seen the assassin stop the clock from making a noise at midnight because the murder is to take place at midnight and up on the wall is the clock that is perfectly visible and it’s 11:45. In the first scene we have given the reader 15 seconds of surprise. In the second scene we have given them fifteen minutes of suspense.

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