1. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Revealing Key Plot Twists... Before They're Revealed.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TLK, Mar 30, 2014.

    Ok, so slightly confusing thread title, but I wanted to pick people's brains about this.

    To give a little background info, the story I'm working on, a Fantasy, is about two warring nations, who, for the purposes of the thread are A and B. The hatred between A and B is high - which is an important theme - to the point where children growing up in Nation A are taught to despise Nation B, and vice versa. It's also important to note that people from the two nations are very different, most importantly in the way they think.

    My MC, a young soldier from Nation A, comes to realise that this conflict is pretty pointless, and, through a series of events, the chance to end it presents itself. So, my MC takes it. The reason why my MC has such thoughts on the conflict is that he's of half A, half B descent. He's essentially a symbol of peace, and of how the two nations can create things, not just destroy. The moment when my MC learn's he's a half-and-half is a key plot twist.

    On the journey, I'm pretty set on having the MC almost join with Nation B. Despite his upbringing, he has inherited he's father's B way of thinking, so he agrees with many of their principles. I think this a great moment in the story, very tense, so I'm set on keeping it in. But here's the problem: my original thoughts were for the crafty fellow luring my MC to side B to tell my MC that his father is from side B, and that Nation A have lied to him about his father. My MC would be shocked, and eventually return to Nation A where a close friend ensures him it was a lie, woven by this crafty fellow to get him to change sides.

    But of course it isn't a lie. Later on in the series (yes, I'm planning a series, no changes there either), the truth is revealed, as the truth. I am essentially going: "Plot twist!" "No, plot twist was a lie!" "Actually, plot twist wasn't a lie, it was truth!" Is the reader going to suspect that the lie is not a lie, and is my story just going to fall apart?

    I've been on this forum long enough to know many of the replies I get will be "it's all in the writing". I understand that, and will endeavour to pull it off as best I can, but, disregarding the writing, is this a good idea, or will it just backfire?

    Any thoughts or comments much appreciated!
     
  2. Pepsik
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    Pepsik Member

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    Hmmm... See, If I was someone reading your series; once the idea of your mc being half A and half B is presented I might start putting together pieces of the puzzle and come to the conclusion that it in fact wasn't a lie. Also that I wouldn't just forget about the half and half concept once your mc's friends tells him it was lie.

    I've had similar problems with my story about a super major twist. In the end I found that it was best just to be very subtle. To only leave clues, but to never actually spell it out for the reader. So that when people try to put together the pieces of the puzzle, they can't because pieces will be missing and it wouldn't really make sense; of course until the twist is revealed and everything will be explained at that point. It takes away the mystery and shock value of a plot twist when the plot twist was revealed before it was supposed to be. But that's just my take on it.

    good luck with story! :)
     
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  3. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    So let me see if I got this right:
    --Soldier grows up in A thinking he is 100% A
    --Soldier begins to side with B because of internal philosophy
    --Soldier is then told by a shady fellow from B that his father is really from B as well
    --Angry and confused, Soldier returns to A where he is told it was a lie
    --Events happen... blah blah blah...
    --Later in the series, Soldier learns his father really was from B, confirming his mixed heritage

    If this is what you're suggesting, I think it will be important to plan the character's reactions and increase the tension between him and other characters. By this I mean, have him confused and unsure of himself after learning of his father from the crafty dude. Then have him comforted but still confused when people in A tell him its a lie. This could lead him to having trust issues and identity issues. It should also lead him to question things with the people from A. By the time we learn of the truth, the MC should be less surprised than the first time. There should be clues that lead him to suspect that it's a possibility. The conflict, then, would have to come from the people he knew blatantly lying to him, not from him trying to cope with who he is (which would be the internal response to the first discovery).

    If you want to blatantly tell readers his father is from B, then tell them he's not, then tell them he is, the experience shouldn't be the same the second time around. Further, you don't want the readers to feel like you're lying to them. You have to leave clues. I don't see why this would backfire if you have a clear, well-executed reason for the turns and can show their effects on the characters. If you can't, then the readers may feel somewhat jerked around and confused. It should, after the first reveal, be in the readers's minds that Nation A could be lying. We should be able to draw conclusions.

    Plot twists are tricky because they can feel contrived and author-centric. In character driven stories, there is little room for the standard "actually this is the truth" form of the plot twist because it can seem to come out of nowhere. Try thinking of ways these turns will effect the people and how they will drive the story with the knowledge. If you cannot come up with good reasons for the double twist, you might want to rethink it.
     
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  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't see a problem with an ongoing "Is it true or false?" situation.

    Now, I would have a problem with the idea that people from two nations on the same planet have, as I read your post, _genetically_ different thought processes. Unless those two nations were utterly separated for many thousands of years, it just doesn't seem plausible--and even then, really, I'd feel doubts. Culturally different, yes, but not actual brain differences. I realize that you didn't ask about that, but I thought I'd mention it.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The purity of the genetic divide which @ChickenFreak brings up may lead some readers to scoff at the credibility of the premise. It's nebulous, however, what exactly leads one reader to suspend reality, and another to balk. I didn't have a problem with differences in the districts in Hunger Games, but the divisions in Divergent were too unrealistic for my taste. If your story adequately explains how the divide came about, and where/how any of the citizens from the two sides would hook up, you can probably get away with it. It may indeed be too much of a stretch to base the difference of pure genetics, but a genetic predisposition is possible. There is, after all, a liberal-conservative divide which more than likely has a genetic component.


    My comment about the triple or quadruple twists is to ask yourself, what is the purpose of each twist to the story? There should be writer's goals for the story or characters involved besides just to keep the reader guessing.
     
  6. AlannaHart
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    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    I disagree with chickenfreak. People develop personality traits of parents they are not brought up with and these personality traits may be more prevalent in certain cultures. I'm not saying it's science! but it wouldn't be too greater stretch of the imagination for me to buy that he's more like his left-wing-B dad than his right-wing-A mum, or whatever. I wouldn't write that it was genetic or rave on about it, but having that as a subtle undertone would be fine if you asked me.

    I think the plot you suggested sounds fine, too. I mean, if the WHOLE story hung on whether or not his dad was B, it would be a flimsy ass story anyway. The emotional conflict of the am I?/aren't I? plot sounds fun.
     
  7. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    What you ultimately plan to do relies on how you craft relationship between the MC and his father. Why didn't the father tell the MC about the his really being a B? Did the MC never meet his father? If so why didn't the MC's mother inform him about his father's background, was there's not a lasting/loving relationship? etc.

    Some suggestions on the MC and the plot twist.

    Maybe the reason the MC is open minded isn't b/c of his father whom he may or may not have known, or B side, but rather he is open minded b/c he lives in a border town and has had some exposure to the people from nation B unlike those in elsewhere in nation A such as the capital.

    Also while the symbolism of having the MC be of mixed heritage is nice, it might be a better plot twist if he was solely of B heritage and the parents who raised him were A's.

    E.g. MC's father along with some other men were on sentry duty to filter out possible Nation B "spies" from the people crossing the border. A married nation A couple with a young infant were crossing the border in the middle of the night and a younger inexperienced nation A guard thought the nation B couple were up to no good and confronted them causing a conflict that led to their deaths, with only the baby/mc surviving. Some of the other guards wanted to kill the baby too but the MC's "Father" decided to take him home and raise him. The MC then can have this revealed to him by his mother or one of the other now retired guards who worked with his father.

    As far as the divisions between nations go, there needs to be a good conflict at the root of it, it can't be like Romeo and Juliet where the two houses don't even know why they started fighting in the first place. Territorial disputes, grudges held from past conflicts, a change of religion, political systems, etc in one or both nations. Also I'm pretty sure that some of the above posters misinterpreted your post since they seem to think that you mean the difference in mindset is genetic, but on the off chance of that actually being what you planned i strongly recommend against it. Any of the above explanations can perfectly explain away hatred, differences in thought style, etc.
     
  8. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Hi guys, thanks for the replies, they're all really helpful! :)

    To address a few issues though:

    I may have been misunderstood about the thought-processes thing. Their brains aren't genetically different (they're all human), they've just been brought up on different ways of thinking. I guess you could sort of say it's like Communism vs Whatever the other one was (I'm really terrible at politics). Nation A initially appear to be the good guys. Their society is mostly fair, they have a parliament, everyone gets the vote, and their reason for the war is "to stop the conflict once and for all, so we can live in peace". Nation B on the other hand are ruled by an omnipotent 'King' and their reason for fighting is, as the MC is first told, "to cover the world in darkness and so the King can be master of all things". Gradually we learn that the split between 'good' and 'bad' isn't so clear cut, and that both nations are really just fighting to survive.

    What @Andrae Smith says is sort of what is happening and, @GingerCoffee, I do have specific reasons for putting these twists in. They're not last ditch attempts to make the novel exciting or anything like that.

    The doubts planted in the mind of the MC by B's shady guy do lead to the MC almost joining sides with Nation B - something which would be bad for all involved, as the MC goes on to become 'neutral' and stop the conflict, which wouldn't happen if his allegiance was to one side. The fact that Nation A may have lied to him and/or "used" him, in addition to some of the myths about B the shady guy has dispelled, leads the MC to question his allegiance. It's a pivotal and exciting point in the novel, the little conflict that ensues.

    So, the first twist is to add more excitement to the story, propel it along a little, create an internal conflict in the MC, as well as a smaller, external one, as two small forces of main characters from both sides clash in response to the potential side switch.

    The second twist (the "it's actually true") allows everything to slot into place. The MC finally understands who he is, what he represents and what he must do to end the conflict.

    It's kind of hard to explain, without giving away huge sections of the novel, but I hope I've done a decent job. Any more help is greatly appreciated! :)
     
  9. Fronzizzle
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    Fronzizzle Member

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    Does the MC automatically or immediately believe it when he's told his father is from B? Or is he skeptical? Can there be reasons he would doubt it the first time? As a reader, if the MC is wondering/confused if it's true then I would be, too. If you could write it such that there is always doubt in the MC's mind, the final twist where "it is true" wouldn't seem so obvious. I think. :)
     
  10. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    This sounds good. especially the last line.

    This all feels a little contrived to me, but I can't make any determination. The best advice I could give is just to write your story and let some people you trust read it. It all comes down to how well you execute it. Whatever happens, there has to be some kind of doubt or confusion. I don't see why it wouldn't work, so long as the MC just isn't so gullible as to believe the shady guy and then turn around and believe the people in Nation A. Everything needs to have an impact, ya know. Someone else may have better advice than mine, but I hope this helps.
     
  11. The Despondent Mind
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    The Despondent Mind Member

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    A small advice for the OP, watch any M. Night Shyamalan movie or read a script of his.

    That's HOW IT'S NOT DONE !

    I would also leave plenty of time and events between the Twists and even after the last one, I would add some significant events so the audience doesn't feel it's in the hands of a self pretentious douche who just wants to shock the audience.

    Basically don't build the entire story around the twists, but rather try to fit in the twists into the story.
     
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  12. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    That's actually a really good point about the spacing. I think readers and the MC should have time to settle in with the new information. We will likely need room to see each reveal have an affect on the character and events of the story.

    Not that I know the story or what it needs, but from my limited knowledge, if it were mine I would have him shocked, maybe a bit distraught over the first reveal. There should also be some taste of evidence that points to it being true. But I'd probably write him wishing it weren't true. Then when the second reveal happens I would have his people present evidence of some sort that his father actually was from Nation A and not B (i.e. the shady dude was lying). The MC would feel a surge of relief, but also some confusion about his identity and some mistrust towards both sides because of the presence of evidence. Then, by the third reveal, when the MC finds out his father really is from B, it would be less of a shock than a revelatory moment. I would either have him go into confusion and/or anger and as he realizes that everything he's known was a lie or experience an important unveiling about the truth of the world (which would naturally be tinted with anger and confusion about his home nation).

    It all depends on where each turn falls in the story--oh, and how long the story actually is--not just the book, but the overarching story, which can be one book or many. I would leave plenty of space between them so that they have their greatest impact. I would probably only do one per book, or two in the first one an have him dealing with the first two internally throughout the second book. Then have the big final reveal either near the end of the second or somewhere in the early to middle portion of the third book (assuming this is a trilogy or series.) This double plot twist just gives you so much room for character development, if they don't have their moments, then they would likely seem contrived in my opinion, or jolt the reader. You don't want too many bombs in one story, especially bombs that directly contradict each other.

    Just ome more food for thought. :p
     
  13. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    At first he refuses to believe it, and doesn't, but there's a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that what the shady guy says is true. Later on in the story he picks up an item that whispers evil thoughts to him, making him side with B a bit more. An unrelated dispute occurs between the MC and his comrades, which tips him over the edge, and he goes to all but join with side B.


    I'm being ambitious and planning a five book series. Although I can't be sure of exact placement in the series, because I'm not sure how many words my ideas will translate into yet, the first reveal by the shady guy happens at the end of Book 3. During Book 4, my MC finds this item (see above), which sends him a bit evil. About 2/3 of the way through Book 4 is the MC all but going over to Nation B, and the conflict that ensues. Afterwards the MC is told the shady guy was lying. The final reveal, the truth, happens halfway through Book 5.

    At least that's the plan. Book 4's structure is pretty sketchy atm. But the upshot of it is, yes, there's quite a bit of time between.

    Yeah, like I say, there's a niggling feeling with the first reveal.

    With the second, it's important to understand that, throughout the story, there are a few instances where the MC's father is referred to in a bad way by certain characters. Shady guy then picks up on this, which partly explains the niggling feeling. To disguise the truth, the MC is told his father once betrayed Nation A (but is from Nation A), which, in the mind of my MC, explains those remarks.

    And yeah, when the MC learns the truth at last, he is pretty angry/distraught.

    Thanks for all the help guys, it's been great so far!
     
  14. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Glad to be of help. I can't say I could provide anything more than that though. Either it'll work or it won't ha ha. We won't know until we see it executed. I don't see why it wouldn't work. Although, depending on how important it is to he series--and this is just food for thought--you might want to consider moving things up a bit to earlier books. The first reason is that readers may not make it to the third book to care about this new plot development. The second reason is that you may not get that far. The third reason is that it can really create some tension and intrigue earlier on.

    Again, it's all up to you, and you know what's best. I say write the darn thing and see what happens. Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2014
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  15. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Yeah, I think I'm committed enough to get the whole thing done, and I'm hopeful there's enough to keep the readers interested before this twist.

    But like you say, I'll see what happens!
     
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  16. matt_kicking
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    matt_kicking Member

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    Without wanting to be annoying by saying "it's all in the writing...", it is mostly true.

    It's fine line between keeping the reader guessing whether it's a lie/double lie, and looking like you as the writer have actually changed your mind a few books on down the series.
     
  17. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    That is a fair point. I'm planning to place a few subtle hints along the way though, so hopefully that'll help cover it!
     

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