Wham Line

"I think it can be pretty interesting how a single line in a story, even one that's seven words, can dramatically alter the perception of everything that just happened."
Andrew Hussie, via his former Formspring

Whereas a Wham Episode is an episode that radically alters the Story Arc, a Wham Line is a line of dialogue that radically alters a scene.

A scene is headed in one direction, then the line is uttered. Afterwards, the scene is going somewhere very, very different. For it to be effective the audience must not see it coming — not just not knowing the exact information, but not expecting any kind of surprising, or even significant, line there at all. If there was background music playing beforehand, expect it to abruptly come to a stop after the line is said.

This is strictly an audience trope. For a milder in-universe version, see Dropping the Bombshell. Often overlaps with Armor-Piercing Question or Armor-Piercing Response, where the line causes a character to seriously rethink their position. In a joke or comic story, a Punch Line functions very similarly.

When something seen by the viewer or reader of visual media radically alters a scene, it's a Wham Shot.

Tends to come in the form of a Reveal. Can fit into a Wham Episode. By the very nature of the trope, spoilers ahead. If we marked them all, the subpages would be 60% white space.

Note: This is not just a line that happens during a Wham Episode. The line itself has to radically change the plot in itself. If the line is the result of events or conversations that are clearly shown on screen, or it's a Foregone Conclusion, then it is not a Wham Line. The line itself has to be completely unexpected.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Standup Comedy 
  • From Ellen Degeneres' "The Beginning", telling the audience an (admittedly fictional) story about how she met God. The crowd's reaction to this line says it all.
    Ellen: A couple of minutes later, God walks into the room, carrying a tray... I would say she was about 46, 47 years old... beautiful, beautiful black woman...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mage: The Ascension. Through the revised convention book for the Void Engineers, there's been continuous mention of a new enemy of the convention; known only as Threat Null, it's one of the main reasons why the Void Engineers have gone from starry-eyed space explorers to combat-hardened space marines. However, for reasons unknown, the existence of Threat Null have been kept secret from all the other conventions of the Technocratic Union. And then, halfway through the book, we find out why.
    Threat Null doesn't call itself by that name. Threat Null calls itself the Technocratic Union.

    Visual Novels 
  • Steins;Gate:
    • A minor example from episode 3:
    "Human is dead: Mismatch"
    • Counts as something named the Jellyman report doesn't sound particularly serious, but causes Okabe to have a minor Heroic BSOD.
    • Episode 12:
    Moeka: Shiina Mayuri is not needed. [fires gun at Mayuri]
    • Episode 14:
    Suzuha: I am the time traveler John Titor.
    • Episode 20:
    Yuugo: [to Moeka] You sold us out, M4.
    • Episode 22:
    Suzuha: You must stop World War III. [EPISODE ENDS]
  • Fleuret Blanc: During a sequence where you can investigate the whereabouts of former FOIL members, the members' statuses appear at the top of the screen as you discover them. When you investigate Etzer, the status update reads "Etzer: Deceased", so you know that something major has happened even before you read the details. This also confirms some of the protagonists' worst suspicions about the villains, immediately heightening the tension of the story.
  • Fate/stay night, the line which reveals that Archer is a lot more than just an ordinary Servant:
    "Trace. On."
  • From Saya no Uta, the following line, not so much the line itself, but how it's heard and by who:
    "Welcome home!"
  • The Final line of Block 5, the Pale Bride's story from Analogue: A Hate Story:
    He started to argue, but then he stopped. I think he was patronising me, as if I can't read simple Korean script! He just asked, in the smuggest voice, "Then what should I call you, child?"
    I screamed. I'd already told him a thousand times before.
    "Hyun-ae! My name is Hyun-ae!"
  • Katawa Shoujo:
    • In Emi's route
    Hisao's Narration: Emi's there, yes. But she's in a wheelchair.
    • In Hanako's route, this exchange between Hisao and Lilly not only takes the scene into a completely different direction (especially in that it forces Hisao to re-evaluate how he sees Hanako), but takes it into a completely direction than the equivalent scene in Lilly's route.
    Lilly: There is another person, though, that has been a subject of worry for me as of late.
    Hisao: Oh?
    Lilly: That person is you, Hisao.
    • In Lilly's route.
    Akira: When our folks told me that when we were at their place, though, they also gave Lilly a summons to rejoin them in Inverness.
    • In Shizune's route
    Misha: Comfort me, Hicchan, just for today.
    • Later in Shizune's route
    Misha: I know you like her, Hicchan. I mean that I like Shicchan in the same way. I want her to be my girlfriend.
    • In the beta version of Shizune's route, the "comfort" sequence does not occur. According to the data the line was meant to be included during the love confession scene itself, however in the leaked beta it is either unfinished or partially removed and thus wasn't implemented. The love confession itself is still a thing but happens much earlier (in Act 3) and is a huge Wham Line after Hisao confronts Misha about her unusually sad behavior lately.
    Misha: Hicchan, I wish you and me could change places.
    Hisao: What do you mean?
    Misha: Shicchan... really loves you. You might be the first person she has ever loved in that way too. Do you notice the way she looks at you, Hicchan?
    Misha: I wish she could look at me like that.
    Hisao: What are you saying?
    Misha: I love her.
    Misha: I'm in love with Shicchan. I love her.
    • From later in Act 3 of Shizune's beta arc:
    Misha: [internal monologue] To my right, I hear a loud noise, like a car horn. It's a bad noise. When you hear something like that... it's not something you're supposed to hear. It means something is wrong
    Misha: I wonder where that car is going? Is it going to hit me?
    Misha: I turn in the direction of it.
    Misha: This must be fate, right? After all, I have lived so long, and I never know what to do next. It can all be over if I just... don't move.

Alternative Title(s): Kapow Statement, Real Life

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WhamLine