Writing About Writing: A once-a-week post about some aspect of writing. I’m not an expert; I’m just some guy. Take it with a grain of salt.
One of the things I find the most disappointing and unforgivable when I’m reading is broken promises.
If you watched the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica” show from 2004-2009 you experienced a prime example of broken promises. (Mild spoilers will follow.)
For several seasons, viewers were taunted and lured with mysteries and secrets. We glimpsed snatches of the truth in dream sequences, flashbacks and inexplicable bursts of insight gleaned during routine missions. We learned tidbits and it only made us hungrier for the full picture.
But when that full picture was delivered, it was full of holes. The series finale left many disappointed. And it’s because we trusted the writers and they broke their promises. All the mysteries and hints built up to nothing.
We felt disappointed because we believed we were seeing pieces of a large, beautiful tapestry. It turned out to be a crappy blanket full of moth holes.
What we should learn from that is how important it is to keep our promises to readers. It’s like the old advice about the gun on the mantle – “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there” (source).
Promising mysteries and secrets and big reveals only works if you keep your promises and deliver.
A more detailed explanation of Chekov’s gun.