Risk the narrator’s life



As I dangled from the precipice, I felt absolutely certain that I would die. My fingers were slipping slowly but inevitably from the ledge and with no one else for a hundred miles in every direction, I knew for a fact that there was no hope of rescue. In fact – and I don’t mind telling you this now, in the warmth and comfort of my own home – I had fully accepted the fact of my own death even before I lost my grip and went hurtling into the abyss below.
As dictated by cliché, the entirety of my life unfolded in my mind’s eye, from birth through childhood to early adulthood and finally to this, my final, fatal misadventure. As I tumbled through the air towards absolutely certain death with no hope of a reprieve, I found a strange kind of peace. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my days were at an end (to the extent that if by some highly unlikely miracle I was to survive, it would be so unfeasible as to to be virtually an insult to any hypothetical audience who might be observing me). I was a goner and I knew it.
Before I continue my story, may I refresh your glass? Are you quite comfortable enough? Excellent. Now, on with the tale...

11 comments:

  1. Also known as the anticlimax before the climax.

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  2. The AntipodeanFriday, July 16, 2010

    Joel, the suspense is killing me...

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  3. I just read a novel where the narrator dies a few chapters before the end. I won't spoil anyone by saying which book, but it turned out to be pretty effective. I just sort of sat there blinking for a moment thinking, "that was ballsy" and "huh, I can't believe the author pulled that off so well."

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  4. Actually, I thought that had just the right amount of hanging a lantern on it that the passage really worked. If I came upon that passage in a real book, I would be totally hooked to keep reading...

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  5. Agreed with C12VT, in the right book in the hands of a good writer (you!), that could be pretty funny and effective. It's very self aware and isn't a serious attempt to build tension. I know what you're making fun of, though. So many writers try to force suspense and tension that the plot really doesn't provide, and it's utterly painful to read. I can think of more than a few movies that do this too, although they're more easily forgiven if it leads to explosions and shoot-outs.

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  6. Agreed with Mel V.: If a movie is a shoot-em-up, and marketed as such, I can forgive many plot follies, as the plot is clearly just an excuse to get to the action (this is the case as well with a lot of Japanese action movies, "Black Mask" being a "mainstream" one that springs to mind).

    Now that I think about it, most pornos follow the same plot rules...

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  7. Despite being consumed by a great white shark as I write, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Joel for drawing my attention to this narrative device which I consider wholly and transparently manipulative in the extreme. In fact I would go so far as to say

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  8. Joel, spot-on as always. If I expected a "serious" work and got this, I'd put it down immediately. But in some sort of parody novel this could be epic.

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  9. I've been reading your blog from work but the comments are sadly disabled there. I've also been reading your back posts slowly, limiting myself every day much the same way a crack head limits himself: unsuccessfully. I love it!

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  10. The tension that it does succeed in building is curiosity. I know he escapes, but I can't see how. I hope it's not deus ex machina....

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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