I've been racking my head lately trying to figure out some kind of formula with which to create the kind of story that leaves you shaking your head and going "wow," for better or worse. Of course there is no set formula, this is a creative endeavour, but then again it is also fiction and there are certain tried and true guidelines. I want to come up with the kind of shocking, ironic ending like in the "Tales from the Crypt" episodes, or the movie "Se7en." Here's an example by horror writer J.A. Konrath. A man wants to break the world record for most pull-ups in an hour but no matter what he does he can only get within twenty repetitions of breaking it. He tries steroids but only gets sick. He goes to visit the record-holder, to check the guy out, and discovers he is missing one leg, giving him a fifteen pound advantage. The protagonist then visits a disgraced plastic surgeon. The surgeon lost his license because a patient came in for a nosejob and he gave him a sex change operation instead. He now does surgeries on the black market. The protagonist pays him to cut off both his legs. Once healed, he tries again but he still can't break the record. He goes back to the surgeon and tells him to remove anything and everything not necessary to living. A few yards of intestine, a kidney, etc. When he wakes up from the operation he looks around the makeshift operating room and sees jars filled with his organs. In one of them he sees ten fingers. Pretty gross, eh? But it's EFFECTIVE. I've been obsessed with recreating this kind of feeling, but I just cannot replicate it. Here are a few of my unsuccessful attempts. They go nowhere. 1. A famous rock star is known for being the fastest guitarist in the world until a new guy shows up who is even faster. The rock star is vain and proud. He tries to practice as hard as he did back when he was at his peak, but can't play as fast as the new guy. He tries to lose weight to make his fingers a little slimmer, but fails again. Then he.... Then he WHAT? My mind stops... 2. A guitarist in a local rock band finds himself down on his luck when he gets kicked out of his band by the jealous and domineering lead singer. Losing his only source of income, he has to pawn his guitar. Then he sees some other band is looking for a new guitarist. This band is about to get a major recording deal and make it big, auditions won't be held for long. Problem is he doesn't have a guitar. So he... a. Tries to steal the guitar back from the shop owner, but gets caught and.. uh.. then WHAT? b. Sells his blood to buy back the guitar, only to find out... WHAT? c. Kills the lead singer, chops him in the crude shape of a guitar, uses his vocal chords for strings, and goes to audition. When he breaks out his "instrument," everyone stares in horror... <-- This is the "best" one yet, it's going in the right direction, but there's just no "wow" there. There's no pinch of irony. Sigh. Has anyone seen that "Tales from the Crypt" episode with Joe Pesci? In it, he's a freeloadin' jigolo who is simultaneously dating twins. Once the twins find out his duplicity, however, they're not angry and they don't break up with him. They're sisters and they share everything. So they cut him in half. Haha! Anyway, these are the kind of things I want to come up with! The kind of story where we, the reader, are already cringing even as the protagonist embarks on his doomed path, 'cause we see something he doesn't, i.e. his vanity will backfire somehow, his duplicity will be punished in an unusual way. One more thing I want to get off my chest. I know this is about creativity, like I said above, sure. But I believe a good writer could create a story out of any idea, even if pedestrian, because he knows how to developt/I] it. How to twist it, how to take it to an unexpected place. I think this is a skill that can be learned. Talent is another thing, sure. For example, anyone can learn how to write a song, even though it's no guarantee it'll be as good as any by McCartney. Any ideas for how I can train my mind to come up with interesting plots?