Let them feel that they know the plot

Sun Tzu, a renowned military strategist once mentioned that some of the best tactics in war is to lead the enemy into believing that they know your plan. Once they feel that they know your plan, you are then in a position to launch a surprise attack.

In the above cartoon, I was playing slightly with the reader’s perception of value. The lead in the cartoon seems to be really serious in selecting an art piece. However, he doesn’t look wealthy in this case. He seems more like a common man just visiting the art gallery after work. So with those hints, it guides the readers to perceive him as someone that might be hoping to buy something more pragmatic or functional. That said, after the second panel, readers may be feeling that he must have brought home something valuable, something important given that level of seriousness that he displayed in panel one and two.

The reveal comes in the final panel where a large painting with just the letter ‘Z’ shows up in his bedroom. And as we all know, ‘Z’ is the letter that is associated with being asleep in the cartooning language. It’s a far cry from what readers may have in their mind given his earlier attitude in the selection process. The intent is to play with the reader’s anticipation through a build up process seen in the first three panels. In the reader’s mind, they would have arrived at the fourth panel when they were at the second or the third. But that is their perception. The cartoonist then takes that anticipation and twist it into something else.

Very often, I am trying to achieve this ‘jolt’ in the reader’s mind. To let them get there before I reveal. I think such conflict provides a strong engagement with the readers and hopefully bring them much joy in the reading process.