Suspense and Emotion Plots

Suspense and Emotion Plots

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The technique of using suspense and emotion plots is fairly well established but rarely discussed outside writery circles. As a reminder, the suspense plot starts early, holding you in your seat. The emotion plot is full of the highs and lows of the characters, focussing on the central ones. The character arcs map their emotional journey. The suspense plot is the ticking bomb, sometimes literally, that we wait to almost the end to resolve. The resolution is complete with a tieing up of heartfelt loose ends. 

I've been focussing on Simon Stephens recently. He adapted Matt Haig's 'The curious incident of the dog in the night time.' Compared to what I know of Stephens's work so far, it's a much lighter piece. I've read the first four of his plays, his diary from 2016 and we saw Punk Rock last night. Bluebird was his first commercial success and follows the supense and emotion plot method clearly. It begins with the protagonist trying to call someone to arrange a meeting to discuss something of importance. This is a middle-aged taxi driver. The emotion plots follow his interactions with his passengers which reveal his life. The suspense plot is concluded in the meeting with the person the phone and the revelation to the audience of their relationship. The emotion plot is resolved by each of them deciding what happens next.

The suspense plot was subtle as it was in Punk Rock. We have clues to a potential violent episdode early on through confessions and predictions of behaviour. The outcome of the suspense plot is dramatic. There is a further scene which attempts to resolve the emotion plot but we felt it added little. The 'rules' suggest you need something to follow to resolve the emotion plot but if the scene adds nothing more than we might fill in ourselves, it's unsatisfying. (SPOILER) In Of Mice and Men, we know what will happen to George after his act. But his act is also the completion of the emotion plot, showing the love for his friend, feeling that it's better for Lennie not to be taken in. In Punk Rock, perhaps a similar ending might of been better.

On a small news note. I've finished working with the script editor Claire Miller on Swarm. This is the web series I've been writing for Screenology to be filmed this year. It was a fascinating excercise to work with a professional script editor. Claire was precise, insightful and rigorous. It was a little like being faced by your subconscious and child self. Your subconscious was telling you all the things you should've spotted e.g. illogical leaps, but rushed over. The child was asking, "I don't understand." Now complete, it's gone to the Production Manager for a read through.