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  1. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Stick or Twist?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Naomasa298, Nov 3, 2019.

    At present, I mostly write short stories.

    Back when I was a lad, I read something about writing short stories which said that a good short story has a twist or an unexpected ending. I think the article may have been written by Roald Dahl (who was famous for Takes if the Unexpected).

    Now, I've always subscribed to that. With only a few exceptions, that's the kind of story I aim to write. But I was reading the submission guidelines on a certain site, and one of the types of stories they say the see too many of is the kind with a twist ending.

    What's your opinion on the subject?
     
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  2. StoryForest

    StoryForest Banned

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    I think all stories should have a point. And short stories, by the nature of their length, simply have to get to their points faster. And often times, a twist just makes a louder statement. But I don't think it is necessary since louder doesn't always mean better.

    That said, any twist that is done well would be appreciated by readers. It's just that nowadays a lot of people like to put one in just for the purpose of having one so it lowers the effect/impact it is supposed to have.
     
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  3. Rockatansky

    Rockatansky Banned

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    I don't believe it has to have a twist
     
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  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Not all shorts have a twist ending.
     
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  5. Seren

    Seren Writeaholic

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    Write a twist when a twist suits. But don't put one in just for the sake of having one, otherwise it runs the risk of falling flat. I don't think every story -- short or long -- needs a twist.

    If a twist naturally occurs to you while plotting or writing your story, go ahead. But I don't think anyone should be tearing their hair out trying to think of one just to fit in with the trend. I've seen a lot of twists that have obviously been thrown in there for the sake of it, and they can ruin the whole story.
     
  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Twists can seem very gimmicky, especially if they are founded on missing information—when the author simply conceals vital information from the reader—or reliant on information presented in a deliberately misleading way.

    Once the 'puzzle' is revealed, there's no story is there? Other than 'note to reader: never assume.'

    A real twist, in my opinion, should arise from events in the story itself. Like that story by O Henry about the man selling his watch to buy his wife a decorative comb to wear in her hair, and his wife selling her hair to buy the man a chain for his watch. That sort of thing. That story is memorable because it actually tells a bigger story—about love and sacrifice. It's more than 'oh, tee hee, you sure fooled me.'
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
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  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    @jannert - this is what I'm worried about. I'm not trawling for feedback, but I recently wrote this:
    https://www.writingforums.org/threads/siren-2218-word-sexual-content.163867/

    It seems to fit the description of your first paragraph to a tee. May I ask your opinion on this?

    I want to improve as a writer, not just end up writing gimmicky pieces.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I remember reading that story before. It has a lot going for it. I was very invested in the story, and I did believe the narrator (especially as it was a 'horror' story.)

    For me, the problem came when the ending was 'revealed,' and I actually couldn't figure out how we got there. I just re-read it, and I'm still am not sure what happened. Was he a necrophiliac? Was he a murderer? And when the girl he really liked appeared—Felicity? How did that happen?

    I think maybe not enough has been revealed here. Just before he charges at the police with the knife, he said he remembered what he'd done. But we still don't know what he did—or at least I don't. For me, the suspense and, indeed, horror evaporated in sheer puzzlement. It's a shame, because it was really good (in my opinion) up to the point where the police burst in. Then I lost the thread.
     
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  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Ah ok, thank you. I have this bad habit of assuming my readers know what I do, and so I don't always lay it out in the writing.

    He's both a necrophile and a murderer. "Siren" is a variety of girls he's killed. But in his mind, they're alive and enticing him, and when he's done with them, he puts the bodies in a sack and dumps them behind the red door. He's creating a fantasy in his mind, which only clears when the police burst in. The last girl was murdered when she followed him home and becomes the last "transformation". I need to make the ending more explicit and explain it more.

    But my problem, I think, is the story uses the device of misleading the reader. I've read that that's bad if it would be obvious to a person that's present what was going on, e.g. we're presented with a sci-fi story where the protag is fighting monsters, but the monsters turn out to be humans. In this case, I'm less sure because you, as the reader, are viewing it from the (insane) MC's POV. But that's kind of been overdone too - MC is insane/tripping/dreaming/in a computer simulation/fantasising.
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I'm wondering if one of the problems with that story is that it's labeled 'horror.' So when the horrible things start happening, we assume they are 'true.' However, the 'trick' aspect of this story isn't bad at all. (Sometimes tricks are good.) It's just that the trick was so obscure that I didn't 'get' it. It might just be me.

    It's something all writers struggle with. How do we say what we mean so that our readers also pick up the meaning—without giving 'the game' away too soon? It's not easy to do!

    The kinds of tricks I find irritating are the Bobby Ewing in the shower it-was-all-a-dream sort of thing (although that one was so egregious it worked!) Or: 'Ha ha, Fred isn't my son after all ...he's my dog! Clever, eh?' Erm...well....
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2019
  11. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm tired of overused tricks - split personality -I've seen so many of them on the writing sites, I can almost feel the ending in the opening paragraph.

    Plus I think sometimes the trick ending is so leaned upon that if you took out the trick there's no real enjoyment in the story without it. You can tell the writer is just biding time for the punchline.

    Good surprise endings are usually ones that have you guessing but you're not skim reading. Alfred Hitchcock short stories had really great twist endings. I used to subscribe to the magazine when I was a teenager and still collect some of the old paperback collections. I think what makes them good is they don't ascribe to a lot of movie trends. Or like John Collier - he's got his own little world going on. He's a great short story writer and I think some of his involve twists but they're funny and sassy and have his own style as well.
     
  12. Tralala

    Tralala Active Member

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    I got 'Siren'! I got it! :superidea:

    Really enjoyed that story. I think about it often. It reminded me how much I enjoy horror.

    That's a great point from Jannert. You could call this crime, and that would really do a lot of the work for you.

    I wouldn't worry about being gimmicky. Just carry on making things enjoyable and nobody will call you that.
     
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  13. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    So would people generally agree that a mild twist done well is better than a powerful twist rammed down the readers' throats?
     
  14. Tralala

    Tralala Active Member

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    I dunno. The twist in 'Woman in Black' was devastating.
     
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  15. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    A lot might depend on the audience you're shooting for, but twist endings can be a letdown for me as a reader. There is a difference between an unexpected ending and a twist ending. Speaking from one short story writer to another, sometimes that twist ending doesn't belong at the end of the story. Not too long ago I wrote a short story with a twist ending. Actually, I wrote it twice with two different endings. I wasn't aiming for a twist ending. It also wasn't quite working. I rewrote the story starting with one of the twist endings followed by the other one. It changed the story and the story progression. But after several tries and drafts, it could very well be one of the best things I've written.

    I think whatever you're going for it's important to remember you're not trying to save up the good stuff for the end. I'm not the biggest fan of twist endings, and I can't say I've read too many contemporary stories that aim for this. You need a whole good story. If the end is the best part, there could be a problem.
     
  16. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    '...biding time for the punch line.' Yes, that's exactly what strikes me, sometimes.

    I'm a fan of folk/traditional music, and some of these songs rely on this sort of gimmick. Most of the time, these are songs you only enjoy the first time you hear them. After you know where it's heading, it's tiresome to sit through it again. (And damn, but people WILL continue performing these ditties at singarounds, clubs and concerts. Aaagh. Time for a potty break...is it safe to come back? Is he/she done yet?)

    Songs without gimmicks? Many of them have lasted for hundreds of years and certainly have given a lifetime of pleasure to me.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2019
  17. John12

    John12 New Member

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    With you 100%, most of my Short Stories have a twist ending. As with all writing they can be written well or badly but twisting the ending goes down well with most readers. Stick with it; after all what matters is what you’re readers think, not anyone else.
     
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  18. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I haven't seen the play - I meant to go and see it, but I went to Mamma Mia instead. :D

    But reading the description, the twist seems to be quite obvious, although it may be different if you're actually watching it.

    I'm minded of two films - The Sixth Sense and The Others. In the first, the twist came as a complete surprise to me. Once the reveal came, it made you look back at the entire film and notice little things that suddenly all make sense.

    Where The Others, which had a similar premise, was just... yeah, ok, Nicole Kidman is a ghost. So what?
     
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  19. Tralala

    Tralala Active Member

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    The Others was a remake of / homage to Turn of the Screw. And not a patch on it.

    Woman in Black is amazing, honestly. Probably, a play script wouldn't do it justice. The novel is very subtle.

    The film with Daniel Radcliffe is slightly different, but absolutely great!

    Real fear :superfrown:
     
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