Raising the level of suspense

This morning I've been working on how storytelling may be a useful approach to resolving emotional baggage. If you've been reading this ongoing series of posts, you know I've previously explored facets of emotional baggage through the lens of storytelling in Revising your past history, Trapped inside a story, and Authoring a new story.

Baggage kills the suspense in our lives. The pain we've hung onto keeps the same things happening over and over. There's nothing to look forward to when our baggage is running the show. Our baggage is keeping us safe from danger and locked into successful routines as if there is nothing new to learn, to reconsider or to adopt as a replacement. Baggage driven lives are boring. The same old victim story (what happened to me) gets retold a thousand times.

Today I'm wondering if restoring suspense to lives via suspenseful stories might create the desired transformations in these storied lives. Here's how stories generate suspense that may potentially become infectious in the baggage-burdened lives of an audience:
  • When stories take the characters into an unusual world, we are held in suspense about their eventual return. Will Alice get back safely from Wonderland? Will the Darling children accept life in London as normal after their adventures in Never Never Land?
  • When stories reveal the "back stories" of the main characters, the level of suspense gets raised by not knowing how their past history will influence their current conduct. Will the characters have enough motivation from what happened to them before to see this new challenge all the way through to completion? Will the insecurities and weaknesses acquired in the dreadful past episode subside as the characters go on this new quest?
  • When the protagonist gets pitted against an antagonist, we're left hanging by the evenly matched contest. Will the heroics overpower the villain in the end? If the enemy gets the upper hand, will this strengthen the resolve of the good guys?
  • When the predictable chain of events gets disrupted by a twist of fate or reversal of fortune, we're left in doubt about the final outcome. Will the plot get back on track and reach it's desirable conclusion? Will the characters get back to making progress after recovering from the discouraging setback?
  • When we get set-up by a story to expect a particular payoff, outcome or resolution, we're held in suspense by the promise made to us. Will the story deliver what we're expecting or leave us hanging after it ends? Will the promise prove to be sincere or just another scam to mislead us to jump to false conclusions?
  • When the main character reveals a pattern of inner torment, we're left in a lurch by the uncertainties. Will the character's dark side get the better of him/her? Will the character overcome the negative emotions which have been sabotaging his/her heroics in order to save the day in the end?
  • When the climax calls for traits we've not seen displayed before, we're left wondering if everything can work out for the better. Will the main character discover there is no escape but to face the challenge with increased resourcefulness and resolve? Can the central character summon enough courage, compassion, creativity or cleverness to transform the entire situation?

Each of these storytelling devices seem to have the potential for captivating and transforming anyone who wants to resolve their emotional baggage. I've got my work cut out for me to apply these to the workbook.

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