Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Annie pulls the rabbit out of the hat

Misdirection: the art of distracting the audience while you perform your 'secret move'.

 Annie presented her story, The Knife Edge on June 22. There was so much to praise and yet the game of ‘punctuation-pedantry’ (in which members of the Severn Valley Authors could represent Great Britain) was still enthusiastically pursued. Happily, the suggestions regarding: comma splices, hyphenation and use of inverted commas failed to detract from our enthusiasm for what was a top-notch tale.

The story was an ostensibly simple one with a young male protagonist, Jay, who lives a ‘sink’ life where his only escape is found at the bottom of an adhesive-smeared crisp packet. He finds a role-model who trusts him but, as the story progresses, the reader’s heart sinks when it appears Jay is going to betray his new friend and backslide into his old solvent-addicted life. Annie gave us a sympathetic character, provided him with a route out of drug-abuse and appeared to be dashing our hopes that he would take it.

Happily, Annie put a twist in the tail. In an uplifting final scene, Jay, is using the stolen solvent to save the day. ‘He had chosen a different way to make himself heard.’

When, as a reader, you have been misdirected so convincingly it becomes important to re-read the story and see how the author did it. In this case, it was necessary for Jay to break some rules and abuse the trust of his friend to put his redemption plan into action. We were set on the path of believing he was back on the slippery slope. Some clever ambiguous phrases and words opened us to the interpretation that solvent abuse was the answer to Jay’s problems and he needed it to ‘erase’ events from his mind. Annie was misdirecting us to insert the word ‘abuse’ into our interpretation. Jay’s real intention, as revealed in the final paragraphs, was to use the solvent for its proper purpose – a crucial, emergency cleaning job – this was Annie’s ‘secret move’.

So an excellent job by Annie, with some truly innovative and memorable similes. The consensus was that The Knife Edge is a potential competition winner.

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