Story Solving

One complaint I have often heard about certain books and movies is that they are predictable. The audience sees where the story is going and what the protagonists are going to do, whether the foreshadowing is too strong or the misdirection is too weak. Sometimes the people complaining will still concede that the work is good, but more often I hear that the entire work is ruined.

I don’t have this complaint. Then again, most of the time I either don’t or am unable to “predict” what will happen (note: those are two different things).

The crux of the matter, as far as I can tell, is whether the reader (or watcher)is more interested in the story or in the execution. I am interested in the latter. I look for well-imagined worlds and characters the the author then mixes in interesting ways. I don’t mind if the story is just a reinvented version of the same themes and tropes, because I am interested in the characters more than in the story. I also believe that while each author may be able to make their world and characters their own, there are only a limited number of stories possible and most stories pick up on earlier tropes and story structures, either absorbing them entirely or rearranging and bringing together elements from different story traditions.

So, why does it matter that (should you look) you can predict the story? If the boy meets the girl, loses the girl, slays the dragon and wins the girl back, then that you know what the outcome will be, but isn’t the journey more important? Relish the story for its own merits rather than complaining that it is predictable.

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