I've cracked the code.
I've mentioned a number of times here in this blog, and in my upcoming Pow! book, how closely related Surprise is to humor. Friday's post, the cognitive psyche experiment sent to me by Adam Lawrence, got me to thinking about it again, and I realized that the ol' "fork in the road" theory of joke-writing is at the core of the Surprise DNA.
essence, it works like this. Every joke
begins as a journey. The 'teller' takes
their audience by the hand and leads them down a playful path. They walk for a bit ('the set-up') until they
reach a juncture, the proverbial 'fork in the road.'
At that point, the teller subtly offers the
audience a sneak peek at their ultimate destination; that place in the distance
at the end of the right-hand turn.
But the humor comes when the teller suddenly and abruptly hauls the audience the other way, taking the left-hand turn down the unexpected route, (also known as 'the punch line')."
So what does this mean? It means that to create Surprise, what you have to do is go against the grain of conventional wisdom and "MIS-manage Expectations."
Let me put it another, more visual way. Check out the rudimentary diagram below:
The black line is the path where people think they're going. The red line is where you are actually taking them. The inflection point of Pow!, the white P, is that proverbial fork, the point where Surprise actually happens.
Takes but a few seconds to learn.
But, alas, a lifetime to master.