Green Glasses Girl wrote:
Find Know your audience
There's a book called They Became What They Beheld
by Edmund Snow Carpenter. The book itself is out of print, but there’s a nice summary of it on YouTube by the user Vihart
. To quote the video quoting the book:
- “If you address yourself to an audience, you accept at the outset the basic premises that unite the audience. You put on the audience, repeating clichés familiar to it. But artists don’t address themselves to audiences; they create audiences. The artist talks to [themself] out loud. If what [they] have to say is significant, others hear and are affected.”
That's great. It's really true too.
If a creator has a large enough body of work, you can see a repeating theme or question in their work. Most authors and artists have a driving thought that they explore again and again from different angles. They themselves may not even be aware of it. I forget who it was, but I read an article about an author once who stated his "theme" had suddenly become apparent to him late in his career when a fan asked him about it. He had protested that, no, not all of his books explored that theme. But the fan pointed out to him again and again how they did. The author theorized that every writer had ONE burning message to the world, and every story was an attempt to perfect that same message.
As to the question of cruel twist endings, I think warning a player or reader of such a thing isn't desirable. But, I think foreshadowing can be used quite well in these cases to create tension in the reader without giving anything away. If a cruel twist ending is properly setup, and doesn't come from left field (only SEEMS to), I like them just fine.
For example: (Game of Thrones spoiler warning if you aren't caught up with the TV show)
The Red Wedding was amazingly done, BECAUSE the writers put us perfectly in the characters' shoes. They immediately made sure we were suspicious and cautious of the Frey clan, right along with the Starks. We suspected he was still angry and would do something horrible. Then, after pointing to the giant Chekov gun sitting in front of us, they systematically relaxed us and assuaged our fears, just as Walter Frey did to the Starks. We were shown him getting his seeming revenge by forcing Robb Stark to humiliate himself with apologies, and rubbing his face in what he could have had if only he'd kept his word. Just like the Starks, the audience now thinks the scales have been leveled.
The wedding is great and funny, while the writers sprinkle in just enough things to make us suspicious for a second, but then make us quickly forget or feel foolish for reading too much into things. The audience is masterfully moved into the exact mindset of our principal characters. The timing and framing of shots is perfect - the big reveal is that the Frey men are wearing armor underneath their wedding clothes.
We are allowed just a second to process the meaning of this, (but the writers made absolutely sure we had that moment to make connections) and as the audience's eyes go wide with the horror of the realization, the trap is sprung. The audience (as evidenced by numerous Youtube reaction videos) cries out a warning at the same time as the character on screen, but it is too late.
If an ending is properly setup and earned, no one should need a warning. The "warning" an audience will get if everything is properly done is a little ball of worry in their gut that something bad is about to happen, but they don't know what it will be. If they want to bow out before that something manifests itself, they can, but an author would destroy all suspense if he or she pointed to the escape hatch themselves.