Storytelling is supposed to be logical. Even though I was talking about the importance of the element of surprise in my own writing earlier this week, any misdirection or major plot shift has to work within the context of the story. Real life, however, plays by its own rules, and often comes up with stuff that would be laughed out of any novel or script.
Picture the movie: MOAT. Raoul Moat, on the run from the cops, fuelled by a self-serving sense of injustice about his treatment at the hands of the police and how his parents named him (he does, after all, sound like a lesser Batman villain), survives for a week in and around leafy Rothbury. He’s helped by friends in the area, moving from campsite to campsite, always one step ahead of the authorities. At the end of Act Three there’s a massively tense standoff between him and the police, which ends either with him committing suicide or being captured. Studio notes decide.
The real life version of the story – the one happening right now – is seven shades weirder. Firstly, the news crews are running around like blue arse flies, speculating and indulging in wildly inappropriate interviews with witnesses and their “mams” on the phone. So far, so Russell T Davies scene-setting montage. Then out of left field comes something that even Paul the psychic octopus would think is a completely fucking mental story – Paul Gascoigne turning up in Rothbury to assist the police. Claiming that Raoul Moat is his friend. Bringing a dressing gown, a cooked chicken and a can of lager to give him. Even now I’m staring at my gin and tonic, wondering what the bloody hell it’s been spiked with. Anyone going to their script editor with this plotline would immediately be laughed out of Dodge.
Imagine the ending of Seven, with John Doe playing one last dastardly game with detectives Mills and Somerset. They’re all out in the middle of nowhere, and Somerset flags down a courier van that’s delivering a box addressed to Mills. The box is opened. But it doesn’t have the disturbing contents that the audience is expecting. Instead, a hundred dancing CGI unicorns pour out and quickly form a chorus line, joining Mills, Somerset and Doe in a Disney-style singalong. Cut to end credits.
THAT’S what Gazza turning up at the end of the Moat news story is like. Truth really is stranger than fiction.