“Why, for example, do the great writers use anticipation instead of surprise? Because surprise is merely an instrument of the unusual, whereas anticipation of a consequence enlarges our understanding of what is happening. Look at a point of land over which the sun is certain to rise, Coleridge said. If the moon rises there, so what? The senses are startled, that’s all. But if we know the point where the sun will rise as it has always risen and as it will rise tomorrow and the next day too, well, well! At the beginning of “Hamlet” there can be no doubt that by the play’s end, the prince will buy it. Between start and finish, then, we may concentrate on what he says and who he is, matters made more intense by our knowing he is doomed. In every piece of work, at one juncture or another, a writer has the choice of doing something weird or something true. The lesser writer will haul up the moon.” -Roger Rosenblatt, How to Write Great
There seems to be a feeling among readers these days that if they see an event coming, the book is less than it might’ve been. I couldn’t disagree more.
I stand with Rosenblatt in celebrating anticipation over surprise. Even when reading mystery novels, the pleasure for me is never in the feeling of, oh I didn’t see THAT coming. The pleasure is living with another’s dread and pain and yearning and hope. All of that is a hell of a lot more fulfilling than being surprised by the killer’s identity.
This is the whole reason foreshadowing exists. Foreshadowing, at its best, is not a trick demonstrated to brag about what a fancy writer you can be. It’s about building anticipation, so that the reader can more fully empathize with the characters in the story: I want s/he to battle and hope against the inevitable while reading just as we all do while living. When it works, anticipation is far more fulfilling than surprise, because we are reminded that a sunrise is precisely as magnificent as it is inevitable.
And yes, my books are among the books you can vote for, but certainly don’t feel obligated. There are a lot of great books on that list, and when I voted, I didn’t vote for myself!
…is an example of something I could say if I were a better person. I did vote for myself.
So every once in a while, someone (or a couple of someones) will get it into their heads that it’d be cool to come visit us in real life by tracking down our addresses and knocking on our doors, or leaving presents on our doorstep or in our mail box.
As harmless as that no doubt is, it is for some reason unsettling. A home is a private place and it’s weird to feel like the internet could at any time come rushing into it…it sort of alters how I feel about home in a way that I don’t particularly like.
The problem is, while we can post on Tumblr and Twitter and even on videos that this isn’t a good idea, there will always be some people who don’t see those messages.
There is a tremendous amount of Vlogbrothers content out there and no one’s expected to experience it all. So people will keep getting excited about the idea, not think it all the way through, and execute without considering what they’re really doing.
However, I do assume that roughly 100% of people will begin their quest by typing “Hank Green’s Address” into google…because that’s where you start, right?
So, the plan is simple, I’ve crated two pages at hankgreen.com with the same text explaining that visiting our houses is weird. I’m going to, right now, link to them with the text Hank Green’s Address and John Green’s Address. If people re-blog this and Google does it’s indexing job, then those should be the first results when people type those strings into Google.
It’ll take a while, but soon, the first thing someone will see when beginning their search is a nice note explaining the situation. Self-policing, YAY!