Junior Inquisitor

Junior Inquisitor

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Enhancing MacGyver

S.M. Williams claims that 80s superhero, who's power is to build machines out of nothing, MacGyver, is the best at building suspense when it comes to image enhancement.


Is Williams right? Probably not, the 80s were awesome, but I not ready to declare MacGyver as the pinnacle of the “Enhance” command. It did get me to thinking, what was the purpose of everyone giving directions to clarify an image? Obviously it was to build tension. What will they find? Will the killer be unmasked? Will the mystery be solved? Will Scooby get one or two snacks? Important questions that the audience wants to know and leans forward to will the information out of the screen.

Glossing over my Scooby reference, the giving of the command “Enhance,” and other directions was to slow things down, to build tension. As authors we can do the same thing, by having the protagonist check their weapons one last time, looking over the rest of the team, saying a quick prayer, or going for a full out literary version of the final showdown of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, where eyes keep zipping back and forth between opponents while hands creep ever so slowly towards weapons.

The difficulty, of course is to build just enough tension that the reader remains fixated on what is going on, and not ready to toss the book because it is dragging.

The other issue is the payoff. There had to be a release for the tension. Having everyone ready to breach the door for three pages, just to find the terrorist gone and the apartment empty, works once, maybe twice, but at some point there has to be a payoff, a discovery, a clue, that drives the plot forward. 
And that's the point, driving the plot forward, but every now and then giving the reader a break, from the action to develop the character, expand the plot, introduce alternative scenarios, and to build tension. Done right, you have a great story. Swing to far, and.... you know.

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