1. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    How Often Should You Have a Plot Twist?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by lordofhats, Nov 12, 2007.

    I was just wondering. I try to have at least one plot twist every chapter so there is never a boring moment where nothing is happening.

    By plot twist I mean one of those moments where right where you think you know what is happening something crazy happens that turns it upside down or at least redirects it in a new direction.
     
  2. Bluemouth
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    Bluemouth Contributing Member Contributor

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    Every chapter? What kind of sick, twisted story are you writing?:p I tend to let the story flow through a number of chapters before deploying a plot-altering twist. Don't you find that over-twisting results in the reader not being able to settle into the story? What kind of twists are these? Major ones - eg. murder-mystery-style? or simple ones ... please give me an example I'm eager to hear.
     
  3. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Most of my twists are minor, with a major twist employed every four to five chapters (Most of my stories are about twenty-five some odd chapters in their outline form, they usually end being around thirty chapters and some 300-400 pages). I usually have the story being straightforward and then a small twist (The the occasional large one) just redirects it to the next event in the story.
     
  4. Anthony James Barnett
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    Anthony James Barnett Contributing Member

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    I tend to agree with Bluemouth. Too many twists can be a bit distractive. I'm a believer in letting the reader settle down between twists otherwise they get a tad breathless - Anthony (Profile of an Author)
     
  5. SAGMUN
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    SAGMUN Member

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    Selected, condensed, restated excerpts from

    part 2: The Element of Story
    2. The Structure Spectrum pgs. 31 to 42
    Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee, Harper Collins., © 1997

    A STORY EVENT is a meanful change in a character’s life situation that is expressed and experienced in terms of VALUE and ACHIEVED THROUGH CONFLICT.

    STORY VALUES ( + / — ) are universal moral, ethical, and other polarities that may shift from positive to negative, or negative to positive, from one moment to the next.

    Reversal of value polarities: Scene minor > sequences moderate > act major.

    A BEAT, smallest element of structure, is an exchange of behavior in action/reaction. Beat by Beat these changing behaviors shape the turning of a SCENE.

    A SCENE, in more or less continous time and space, reverses one or more value polarities in a character’s life. Ideally, every scence is a STORY EVENT. If no change in value, it is a non-event with inormation that can be interweaved elsewhere. A novel has 60+ scences.

    A SEQUENCE is a series of scenes— generally two to five—that culminate in a greater impact than any previous scene. The scences in a sequence are related by a purpose: goal, task or desire. Seeks a job > problems > got job or not.

    An ACT is a series of sequences that climaxe in a major reversal of values.

    This the best book I've ever read on writing. It is mainly about screenwritin. Lots of imperative info for budding novelists.
     
  6. Paladen
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    Paladen New Member

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    Honestly it depends on the type of story you are making. If its a horror, like a few in every chapter... In others such as action I would use some in the story over all, but not every chapter.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    every chapter sure sounds like overkill... there shouldn't be any standard rule for this... it should always depend only on your story/plot and what that calls for...

    for instance, letting the reader go for several chapters thinking one thing, then suddenly tossing in a switch, will be much more effective than making them have to zig and zag their way through a new twist every few pages...
     
  8. Koosha
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    Koosha New Member

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    I think having one in every chapter is a tad too much. The reader could get overwhelmed. I personally don't go by chapter. I go by ideas. I prefer to have a plot twist when I feel the reader knows where the whole thing is going, so they don't start getting bored. It could be between two chapters, or between ten.
     
  9. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    I think, as a reader, after the third or fourth chapter -- each with its obligatory twist -- I would start to question if the author really knew where he wanted the story to go.

    It would take an extremely compelling plot and characters to overcome that.

    Just my tuppence,
    Rosalinda
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't particularly believe in plot "twists". The plot has a flow, and events occur when and if appropriate. Characters respond to events, and set events of their own in motion.

    "Twists" imply to me a sudden and capicious change in the flow.

    But it's certainly part of the problem that it's not well-defined what each person means when referring to a plot twist. Some might mean any new complication that didn't previously exist, or wasnot previously revealed to the reader.

    I'd rather concentrate on the story as a continuous flow. Tributary streams may join, and obstacles can deflect the course, but there is no predetermined frequency for these.

    Life isn't episodic. Every day does not bring a new crisis in lockstep. Some elements take longer than others to develop, and one doesn't stop short when another begins. It all mixes together like currents in a brook, yet individual currents can still be found anywhere along the way. Everything upstream contributes, and everything downstream is affected to varying degrees.
     
  11. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    It isn't practical to set a standard on how often to have a plot twist. Every chapter does seem like overkill, but I suppose that depends on your chapter length. It really depends on what your goals are and what general plot of the story is. As long as it improves the writing - meaning it makes it more desirable to read - then I think twists should be added. There are some writing mediums that twists are simply more acceptable in, such as in TV shows (such as Lost). I think plot twists can be a very good thing, but they can also detract from the story as a whole. I think one or two major plot twists in the story would be best.
     
  12. Anthony James Barnett
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    Anthony James Barnett Contributing Member

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    Cognito, you've hit it right on the button. Nothing should be forced, and twist certainly does imply it. I'm with you all the way on this. - Anthony
     
  13. Good_writer
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    Good_writer Banned

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    A plot twist in every chapter? The only book i have ever read which had a minor plot twist in every chapter is the Hardy Boys, and i just hate the books. It gets so damn boring. Something happens at the end of every chapter which might cause a disaster, but it doesn't. The whole series are sick.
     
  14. ivy
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    ivy Member

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    Doesn't some if it depend on the genre you're writing? Mysteries and political thrillers tend to have more twists than historical fiction, for example. A few good twists can be a good thing, like twists on a roller coaster: a few of them keep you off-guard, and are the more thrilling for being unexpected. Too many, and you find yourself gritting your teeth, just waiting for the nightmare to end. You leave the ride clutching your head, moaning, "Never again."
     

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