Thursday, March 26, 2015

Twisting In The Wind

Readers want the unexpected from us in our work.  A boring, predictable plotline gets easily discarded for something that provides a little more excitement and intellectual engagement.  However, as writers, we often outsmart ourselves in this regard.

A twist that makes sense is great, and even an understated bit of unpredictability can add spice to a story.  Unfortunately, far too many writers try to throw in something so OUTRAGEOUS! and AMAZING! that the reader twists his or her lip, sighs, and vows to never read one of our novels again.

M Night Shyamalan is a classic example of someone who tries too hard.  The first time we noticed one of his twists - for most of us, that was in the movie The 6th Sense - we were blown away.  Bruce Willis was always dead?!?!  How did we not notice that?  Oh my God, that was incredible!  But since this twist was so epic and made a good movie great, Shyamalan seemed to blow his wad and spent the rest of his career trying to top it.  None of his other stuff was never up to par - aliens hurt by water invading a world that's 74% water?  Really? - and looking for the twist eventually became a big joke.
(Don't milk your twists)
For a twist to work, the audience can't be expecting it.  That's why you only introduce the enormous swerve once or twice in your career.  When you try it every time, two things happen - 1) it seems forced; 2) people expect it...thus making it less of a twist.

Don't toss in the unpredictability just for grins.  It has to mean something and enhance the story.  Otherwise, you risk being a Shyamalama-ding-dong.

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