1. U.G. Ridley

    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid

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    How do you guys feel about the "crazy main-character" twist?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by U.G. Ridley, Feb 4, 2017.

    I'm talking about the narrator of Fight Club actually just making up Tyler Durden while he himself is pulling all the strings, or Teddy from Shutter Island actually being a mental patient, not a U.S. Marshal on an investigation. (Excuse me if I remember the specifics wrong since it's been a while since I've read those books.)
    Do you enjoy these types of plot twists? Or would you have preferred these stories if they had ended with some sort of villain reveal, or any other type of plot twist that doesn't include the main character being crazy?

    For those of you who enjoy these plot twists, but don't feel they necessarily fit all narratives, you can read the basic idea of my book below and see what you feel would work best for my particular story.

    It is about a writer who, after suffering great personal tragedy, decides to isolate himself in his rich (now dead) father's ranch, where he delves into the story of his next novel. At one point, he creates a room that is related to the plot of his book (a specific kind of mental torture room), in an attempt to experience what that kind of torture would be like, the idea being that he can then write a more realistic depiction of the torture while still being able to leave whenever he wants. But one day he gets locked inside and is then confronted by characters who mentally torture and abuse him while he tries to escape from his own torture room.

    Would you find the ending more enjoyable if it turns out that the main character actually locked himself in that room, and that all the figures who tortured him were just hallucinations/visual representations of various things he has struggled with in his life, or people he had hurt? Or would you prefer it if the book ended with the villain being revealed as someone who hated him/wanted revenge against him for something he did, and so on?

    Thanks for any advice you may have!
     
  2. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    In the case of Fight Club it works perfectly, and it helps that the the novel is well written... to carry off a twist like that you better be a masterful writer and know your craft. The other thing that Fight Club has going for it, it's underpinned with some deep themes that make the ending twist more poignant. If all you're doing is pulling the rug from under the reader at the last moment, than it won't work.
     
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  3. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Personally, I think the crazy main character is an interesting idea whose time has come and gone, mostly but not entirely because so many people have done it.

    That objection is obvious, but the other problem is that you have to be (and I'm not saying you're not, just percentages) very good to pull it off without people seeing it early, and there are also almost always huge holes that reveal themselves upon further reflection.

    Taking Fight Club as an example; I've both read the book and seen the movie, but the movie version is sharper in my head, so I'll reference that. The gaping hole is the second fight. The Narrator and Tyler Durden beat the snot out of each other in the parking lot of the bar. If I see that, two guys who seem to be friends, having a fight for the sake of fighting, I might, might, be like the guy in the suit (was he in a suit?) who asks "Can I go next?".

    But if I see one guy beating the snot out of himself in a parking lot? Just nope, I'm looking far enough the other way not to be noticed until I can get my keys and head out.

    SPOILERS AHEAD

    Ditto for Mr. Robot. Christian Slater's character is berating the hacker crew until Rami Malek takes him aside, talks to him, and then comes back and explains the new plan to everybody. This does not work if it's only one body playing both sides of the game, unless you're a whole lot more accepting of a whole lot more instability that I am. Coming back the next day, coming back in a few hours with a change of heart? Maybe. Coming back in 32 seconds? Uh-uh.

    And, back to the original point of it being overdone at the moment, I was suspicious of Mr. Robot from about the second episode of the first season, and watching for things that could prove that he wasn't both characters. That argument scene was one of the ones that sold me, until it was revealed to be kayfabe.

    So, to answer your question, I'd much rather find out that the tormentor was (or was working for) his sweet little sister, or best friend from college, or the butler, than to end up going through the first fifteen chapters cranky and looking for mistakes.

    But that's just me, and I can be a bitter and critical reader.

    Or am I really you......

    :)
     
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  4. U.G. Ridley

    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid

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    I was actually going to mention Mr. Robot, but I'm still undecided on whether or not I like the way that show handled the crazy character twist. Like, I think I remember there being a point in the second season where Rami Malek's character gives certain information to another character, and we see it as if they are speaking in his mother's house, but since he is actually supposed to be in prison (his mother's house just being his imagination), the conversation must have happened in one of those visiting-day type situations, and I just don't see them being able to have openly discussed what they were discussing there without that ticking off the cops or whatever, especially since I would imagine that his character is under some sort of watch. Still love the show in general, but whenever I think about certain scenes, it sort of feels like the writers just ignored logic for the sake of surprising the viewer.
     
  5. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I honestly quit after the last episode of the first season because all of it looked too much like a Fight Club ripoff to me. Love Rami Malek, soft spot for Christian Slater because I'm old and remember Heathers, but I just had to tap out.
     
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  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'll echo @Iain Aschendale and add that, not unlike a "found footage film", I can only ride this ride a few times before I don't want to ride it again.

    I also both read and saw Fight Club. I liked the film so much that I bought the book even though there were no spaceships or aliens in it, my usual stomping grounds. Even knowing the twist, I enjoyed the book because I enjoyed the novelty (for me) of this particular take on the human psyche. I was intrigued about what Palahniuk had to say about modern human - especially male - existence. The twist didn't matter. What he was saying with the twist is what captivated me.

    It's like any trope. You can just wave the props around on the stage, like, ooo, look, zombies/vampires/dissociative identity disorder, or you can use these props to say something to me. I'm down for the latter, not the former.
     
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  7. Mocheo Timo

    Mocheo Timo Senior Member

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    You seem to get the hang of how the authors of Fight Club, Mr Robot, and Shutter Island work with their plot twists. So I think you could go for something more complex, more like "pulling the rug from under the reader" (as @Iain Sparrow mentioned) .

    The outlook of your story looks like fertile ground to work with a psychological disorder or something-the-like in your MC's character development. If you are careful enough, you can create a logical situation in which the character gets trapped inside a mental prison and ultimately tries to overcome himself. I don't think you'd need to worry about the use of characters, since the MC would rely on his memory of real people in order to create characters for the "torture room" which could (with good writing) seem tangible to the reader as well.

    Now, as I see it, the outcome of the twist could be a problem.
    Once the reader realizes the MC is the only real character in action (fighting ghosts in a mental torture room),
    it would be incredibly disappointing for him not to succeed.
    Say, for one of the people in the MC's head to defeat him and leave him forever trapped with his mental struggles.

    So, I'd suggest you a third option (which looks more like the 2nd one):
    A real villain is behind the MC's "torture room", but not in the sense that the person controls it, but rather in the sense that the person nurtures the MC's madness so that his psychological disarray prolongs and he continues to be trapped inside of his head.
    That would make sense since mental disturbances are often caused by people's influence over the person who suffers from them (environmental factors).
    In that way as the twist is revealed, there is a lot more room for you to work with the plot.
    The reader would expect the MC to defeat both himself and/or the villain who is making him suffer.
     
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  8. U.G. Ridley

    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid

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    You know, as I was reading through your comment, a bunch of my ideas started to mold with your thinking in a way that got me really pumped to start working on this book. This is some really great insight, thank you!
     
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  9. Adam Kalauz

    Adam Kalauz Member

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    I would also recommend that you develop a deep understanding of 'why' your MC has done this to himself. (I prefer the crazy option!)

    Is it self-loathing, because he blames himself for the personal tragedy?
    Is it a commitment to his writer's craft? (And if so, please tell me have you recently constructed a torture room in your house? I need to know because of reasons...)
    Etc etc.

    To pull out the rug, you need to put a rug down, and coax people to stand on it first. ;)
     
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  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'm with Wrey and Iain - this seems too predictable to be a twist ... been there done that, yawn

    I'd sugest that instead you subtly lead readers to believe that this is going to be the twist, but it turns out not to be
     
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