A tactic in a piece of fiction in which the creator attempts to swiftly and effectively destroy the assumptions which the audience will naturally make as a result of storytelling conventions. The most typical surprise ending will deal with story; clarifying, mudying, or radically altering it so that it seems to have no connection to the tale prior to the final revelation. Recently, more popular has become another type of ending(most likely a more difficult one to successfully achieve), in which the surprise ending dramatically changes the relationships amongst all of the story's characters.
In a work which fully utilizes the possibilities of a surprise ending will hint at the hidden information throughout the film, making the audience feel foolish or amazed at not realizing what seems obvious on a second viewing. A poorly crafted surprise ending will act as a kind of deus ex machina which neatly ties all loose strings together without any emotional or amazed effect on the audience. For example, the main character is feeling funny because he's in a computer too!.
Surprise endings work as a result of the invisible schisms between author, symbol, interpretation, and audience. A typical work of fiction (for example, a novel) consists of the following processes:
- The author creates a story in his head, vivid and complete.
- The author cannot recreate this perfect image, for he lacks time, space, and, most importantly, must overcome the flaws of language to convey his own internal connotations with his audience. So he makes some sacrifices, and the work has some holes (small, if done properly, but holes nevertheless).
- The audience reads the printed page, a collection of symbols. These words are loaded. They are compartmentalized collections of meanings, with imprecise at best definitions. A word has no center or edge.
- The audience makes connections and assumptions which create a coherent, localized story. This story is unique to each person, but there will be common threads through each interpretation.
- The result is that the author's perfect vision is degraded at a number of places.
A good author can take advantage of these holes and place important plot connections within them, saving them to reveal at the novel's end. For example, just because most people sleep, doesn't mean that the main character does. He might be out buying lots of milk ... or whatever works for the story.
Here is a list of those surprise endings which I have come in touch with which I deem important or especially interesting. These endings, of course, shall not be revealed here, but I suggest caution if you don't want to know the fact that they exist.
Please send me more and I will put them up if I find them to be important.