Before I write something please watch this video from Thomas D, a musician you probably won’t know. It is the title “Uns trennt das Leben” aka. “Life separates us” (Lyrics in German and English are here) from the album “Lektionen in Demut” aka. “Lessons in Humility”:

Ok, now listen to the very first song of his new follow up album:

Quite a surprise isn’t it? Just when you think that this new album is almost the same in terms of depression and dark notes, he suddenly and completely switches the mood. And for me it absolutely works. I simply couldn’t stop smiling while listening.

Screenwriting and surprising your audience

Which brings me back to screenwriting. Form my understanding of the hundreds of movies I’ve watched and the books I’ve read nothing works as great as a nice surprise for the audience. It can be, as with the songs above, a change of mood. It can be a reversal, a freaking new direction of the script because of a revelation nobody would have expected or the hero gains new insight into The Plans Of Evil.

Of course it would be crazy to write something like a surprise or big change out of nothing because it wouldn’t work on many levels. For one, many could be confused of what is happening. For the other, it might not work because you wrote it out of nothing. The big surprise during the 20 second mark of the first new song of Thomas D works only for those who know his old album. But for those it is a big surprise (when they read no early and spoilerific reviews of course).

When you write a movie weave something into it, be it a theme, plot element or a character relationshop. Then you can use this foundation to surprise the audience.

Did you already write a script or did a short movie for YouTube and incorporated a big surprise for your viewers. Or did you recently watch a movie with a surprise which let you drop you jaw? Feel free to share your thoughts!

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