1. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    Twist endings.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ashley Harrison, Feb 23, 2016.

    Here are some questions, concerning a storyline device, that I would like different opinions on please.

    Is it amateurish and perfunctory to deliberately mislead the reader, by concluding a novel with a twist ending?

    To employ wrestling jargon, is it permissible to purposely 'swerve' the reader, without leaving them disappointed and vexed at your ending?

    Do you see 'twist' endings, as the author flailing about, not knowing how to finish the story and has resorted to deception, up to that point by coming straight out of left field with their conclusion?

    How do you handle creating a fulfilling end, that both pleases the reader and you, the author?

    No one wants their reader to put down their book and think 'what a waste of time that was'. I think it's much more difficult to convey a shock twist in a novel than on television and film.

    More often than not, major plot twists come off as hokey and lackadaisical storytelling. What can you do to avoid these pitfalls?
     
  2. plothog
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    Twist endings aren't inherently bad.
    A lot of readers prefer things to be a little unpredictable.
    If you're writing a murder mystery they're pretty much a requirement.

    But the twist can't come from totally left-field, or as you say it looks like the author doesn't know how to end things and has just brought in random new elements that weren't featured earlier. There needs to have been hints throughout of what was coming.

    It's a tough balance to strike. Make your hints too vague and they might as well as not have been there; too obvious and people will complain they saw your twist coming a mile off.

    Of course it doesn't matter if your twist comes out of left field in your first draft. You can add all sorts of hints and foreshadowing in later drafts and make it feel like you know what you were doing all along.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Every twist needs proper build up. I read someone's short story on another site ( I'll tweak the details a bit. ) It was about a boy and a girl sneaking out to meet before the fourth of July and then suddenly the boy turns into a snake and eats the girl. End of story. I was very WTH? Because there was no build up. No bread crumbs that there was anything wrong with the boy, no unease about their meeting. The twist came out of nowhere and I felt cheated. Though the writer probably thought he was being very clever - very ha, ha, never saw that coming did you? Of course not, just like I would never forsee getting hit by cruise ship in a parking lot.
    Unless there was some build up like a sunami or tidal wave or something.

    Leave a trail of clues. They don't need to be obvious they just need, in the end, for it all to make sense.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
  4. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    Do you think it is the case, that you can easily establish a clever and shockingly good twist in the medium of television and films, more so than novels can?

    I know it was written for the screen, but to reference one of my favourite movies, 'Saw', that story would almost be impossible to transform the plot, coherently in to a book.

    One author I think did this, to a tee was Agatha Christie. It's hard to replicate, that sort of tying up loose ends in such a compelling manner.
     
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  5. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    That makes a lot of sense and well explained too, thank you. I'm curious, what kind of feedback did you give to the author of the short story?
     
  6. Ashley Harrison
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    I'm sorry, that last post was meant for peachalulu.
     
  7. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    That makes a lot of sense and well explained too, thank you. I'm curious, what kind of feedback did you give to the author of the short story?
     
  8. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hard to say, not having written for film or tv, but my instincts are the twist writing difficulty isn't much different.

    I've certainly seen plenty of books with good twists and plenty of film/TV with slightly botched twists.
    Each medium has some different tricks for dropping hints or withholding information, but the overall story structures are often very similar (hence why so many films are book adaptions)
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I didn't leave feedback. If I'm not sure if a writer wants critique or just a sort of read and compliment then I don't leave feedback. I wasn't too sure with him/her. If I would've left something I probably would've said - it's too short and there were no clues to justify the ending.
     
  10. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    Oh sorry, I misunderstood. I thought someone had sent it to you on another site, for you to critique it. I should have read your post more clearly. :)
     
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  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    No problem - :)
    I frequent a few sites and sometimes all I have the energy to do is read.
     
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  12. Ashley Harrison
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    As you are very knowledgeable, I thought you might be able to answer this question for me please. Would you classify an outcome at the end of a story, that may not have been explored thoroughly during the novel, a twist or a nuance? For example, it has no relevance to anything I've ever written before, but just say in the epilogue, it's revealed a character turns out to be gay. Would that be classed as a twist or nuance or neither? If it's neither, what would a revelation like that be categorised as do you think?
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Epilogues are somewhat different but they should bear some meaning to the context before it. So telling us a character turned gay, or joined the navy or married a midget - all this could wind up being more a curious aside than anything. Not saying it can't be done especially with certain genres. Just not sure why unless it's being used as a kind of punchline or irony or a result.
    It's like saying John ( from American Graffiti ) was killed by a drunk driver it has a bit of sad pertinence.
     
  14. Ashley Harrison
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    I don't why, but your examples made me laugh, I know that's naughty of me. :D Thank you for that though.

    I see what you mean, it's used more as a device to punctuate a poignant message, rather than a traditional twist ending.

    Just to digress for a moment, why they felt a sequel was necessary? I don't know what processed them to make 'More American Graffiti'? Really bizarre.

    Thank you for your help, explaining the basics of novel structure to a novice. I do appreciate it. :)
     
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  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    To deliberately mislead? Yes.

    But a twist ending is more slight of hand than misleading.
    Yes.
    No.
    You go back through your story and find places to plant hints as to what the twist will be. Just don't underline them too hard so the reader thinks, "Okay, I can see this coming back in the third act."

    Have a read through the "How to Write a Climax" section of "Beginnings, Middles and Ends" in Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain.

    Plant hints. Foreshadow.
     
  16. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    Thank you for your advice. It's very helpful.

    Also, thank you for the recommendation of the book. I think that might answer all my questions.
     
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  17. GoldenFeather
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    The thing is, the twist has to be even more interesting than all the events that led up to this point. If your twist is very small, then yes, readers will be disappointed. Your readers need to believe they are in one situation, and the twist ending needs to reveal something that was obvious in all these events, but not obvious until now.

    You MUST foreshadow. A twist ending can't be random. You need to leave clues or gaps in your stories to make this twist plausible. Otherwise you might catch your readers really off guard without prepping them properly. It's like sex, if there's no foreplay, the sex won't be enjoyable. You gotta lube up your readers and make sure they are ready for when the twist comes.

    ALSO, you need to know this twist before you get to the end of your story. You need to know it before you write the story, so that you can write in properly and know in the back of your head that everything will be consistent for this twist, structuring your work accordingly and making the twist fit in more and stand out less. In other words, when you write with the ending in your head, you don't need to go back and edit everything to match your ending. It will have been written for the ending all along.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2016
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  18. Ashley Harrison
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    Ashley Harrison Active Member

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    You're right, blindsiding the reader with an unnecessary twist ending, will inevitably leave them feeling shortchanged by your book.

    Equating it to sex, is a piquant observation. :D
     
  19. GoldenFeather
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    Haha! I couldn't think of any other analogy :p Glad it worked!
     
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  20. obi-sem kenobi
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    I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with plot twists. Some stories have a beautiful twist at the ending that suddenly makes everything become clear. Apart from everything that has already been said, the only thing I really cannot stand is the "You thought I was good, but I was really a bad guy all this time" twist. I don't care if it's cleverly set up (ok, I care a little), all it really does is make me dislike a character I liked before and make sure that I cannot enjoy the story a second time.
    I'd snow you all in with examples, but that would possibly ruin some perfectly good stories (even in spoiler tags, because even revealing the title of the work would already imply there's a secret villain in the story), so I'll just keep it contained to my little rant. Sorry about that.
     
  21. Ashley Harrison
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    I think the genre I prefer to write within the confines of, is a psychological thriller. It's almost a prerequisite of that genre, to have one or more twist endings as the payoff. In other genres, the method seems extraneous to have a twist ending, let's say in a romantic novel for example.
     
  22. obi-sem kenobi
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    Yeah, I agree that's mostly the case, and I definitely don't have anything against plot twists in general, but I sometimes feel like the author is screaming in my face "Hah! Bet you didn't see that one coming!" to which I say "No, of course not, because it's redicilous." But when I boil down my argument to its core, it's really not much more than what has already been said.

    I'm not really sure, by the way, if a psychological thriller requires a plot twist or two to work. The ones that I've seen or read (mostly seen) are mostly about a certain choice someone makes, along with its consequences. Watching how those consequences unfold and how the character reacts to them are the source of the tension.
    Of course, it's a broad genre, so there's infinite possibilities :)
     
  23. Ashley Harrison
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    Yes, you're right, author's that think they've been creative by concocting a ludicrous plot twist just for the sake of it, really irritates me. Not so much in novels, but films seem to perpetually do this. You can almost imagine the writer's face with a massive smile on it. Thinking, 'I went left there, when you thought I was going to go right, aren't I a genius?' It isn't clever to screw with your audience like that, I don't think.

    One film that I watched recently was 'Side Effects', with Jude Law and Rooney Mara. It's a psychological thriller and the twist in the end, I think worked magnificently. Now there was a point in the film, where they didn't need to have the twist ending. I thought the film could have worked without it. I'm glad it was in there though, but either way the film would have left you feeling unnerved, like all good psychological thrillers should. :)
     
  24. doggiedude
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    Personally, I love plot twists when they are done well All to often they aren't, the one movie that comes to my mind for a well done example is 6th sense. It has become almost a fashion for people to have seen the ending coming but I guarantee you that most people were shocked. That's the reason it was so well done. If you thought back through the movie could suddenly see all the things you had missed that could have made the ending obvious if you had focused in that direction.

    Misdirection I think is the key. Give the reader all the information needed to see the ending but give it in a way that keeps them from really focusing on the points. The piece I'm currently working on has a side plot of a terrorist planning on killing a great deal of people over a political issue but in the end he will fail miserably. However, there will still be mass deaths caused by a different character for very different reasons.
     
  25. Ashley Harrison
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    Do you know, you might think it's strange, but I've never watched 'Sixth Sense'. The reason why I've never seen it is, not too long after it was at cinemas, everyone gave the plot twist away. I thought there's no point in watching it now.

    Another film based on the novel of the same name, that has a bit of a twist ending and I think is done expertly, is 'The Prestige'. A great film, brilliant acting and a fantastic story.

    Your story already sounds intriguing.

    Do you think 'misdirecting' and 'swerving' the reader are parallel, or two separate things?
     

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