To be honest, this has been ‘bugging’ me for a while, although it only became blog worthy (by which I mean complain to random people on the internet) after the first episode of the BBC’s current Sunday night drama ‘What Remains’.
Imagine, if you will, sitting in the dark with my wife (the wife part is optional), enjoying the plot development of a thriller/drama/who-done-what. Totally absorbed in the story, time passes quickly and the twist and turns climax with the main character being smashed over the head by an unknown assailant, chasing them out of the house, before collapsing – condition unknown – onto the street… the screen goes black….
… then the tension is broken by the killer words ‘Next time’. What follows is a montage in which we quickly learn that the main character has suffered no ill effects from the hideous head injury he received, he uncovers a vital clue and does a number of other things which make watching next weeks episode seem a complete waste of time. Shivers down spine, stopped. Built up tension – which would have ensured I tuned in next week – shrivelled on the floor like an old balloon.
The ‘Next Time’ phenomenon actually goes deeper than this. I have lost track of the number of times I have sat through an hour long program, which is actually only half an hour of original programming, thanks to the presenter constantly telling me what is ‘coming up’ or confusing the ad breaks with memory lose and therefore telling me what happened 2 minutes ago OR worse still, prior to the ad break, telling me what will happen after the ad break AND THEN reminding me what happened before the ad break followed by what’s coming up now the ad break has finished.
So what does this have to do with writing – well very little. But it does have a lot to do with the presentation of our work. My wife commented to me the other week that the book she was reading ‘just ended’. When I asked her if she had noticed that the pages towards the back were getting less than those at the front, she (after slapping me) pointed out that the story did unexpectedly end. The last fifty pages of the book contained the first ‘few’ chapters of the authors other novel – and some adverts for other books, suggested discussion points for Book Clubs etc etc. In short she felt robbed, the unexpected end – thanks to the additional ‘Next Time’ style padding – left her feeling severed from the world she had been enjoying.
So the question is – and I know it is a marketing ploy – is this tactic fair on readers? Does advertising the fact that this book (electronic or otherwise) contains EXCLUSIVE extracts from the upcoming new novel staring the hero of the book you haven’t read yet – but who clearly survives the mission/horror/case – spoil the drama you hope to create or experience?
Until NEXT TIME……