Old 11-15-2012, 03:35 PM   #1
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Twist and Turns

Working on some new chapters and I don't want the ordinary plot or story line. How do you add twist and turns in your story to help make it interesting but not predictable. How many twist is too many? How do you lead in one direction but know you are going to end up in another direction with out giving it away before you want to?
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Old 11-15-2012, 09:36 PM   #2
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This maybe something that every writer does a bit differently. I'll try to explain what I have done. This story got a couple of good comments about the twist I put in.

http://www.literotica.com/s/on-silent-feet

I wrote the story with the main character being a guy. But then in the middle of writing it the idea that if it was a girl it would be a neat little turn about. I went back and checked through what I had written and nothing gave away the gender. So...he became she and I had my story. So this one was done by accident.

Do it on purpose.

Write the whole story like it's one thing then change it to something else. Do it quick. Make your reader have to stop and step back a few words while going "what the fuck!"

Lets say your writing a mature story. Guy meet older woman.Maybe they meet on a plane flying towards the same city. He's going home for the holidays. She's going to visit relatives for the same holidays. She's not really looking forwards to it. He feels about the same. They talk, he gets to flirting, she's a bit flattered and flirts back. They decide after a few drinks to become part of the mile high club.

Wham.. bamm.....ouch that my hair, thank you older mama, they get done, the plane lands and his Mom comes to meet him at the terminal and walks past him to hug her half sister,young aunt, cousin, you name the relationship.

All it would take is he goes by a different name than his mom calls him. Mom calls him Stevie he goes by Steven. He knows his mom has a distant female relative, maybe her family is from half a country away and he's never met them.

This story might be a bit of a stroke story but with the right dialog between them who knows.

Like I said this maybe something you have to learn by playing with your stories.

Hope it helped.

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Old 11-16-2012, 04:54 AM   #3
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You're not going to like me for this, but my suggestion would honestly be to visit TVTropes.org. It's an encyclopedia of tropes--all the various storytelling devices that fiction employs. For instance, if I tell you that Harry Potter is "The Chosen One," you know what function Harry plays within the story even if you haven't read it, because The Chosen One is the special person who is the only one who can defeat the "Big Bad". "The Chosen One" is a trope. (So is "Big Bad".) TVtropes started out with only television--hell, it started out with only Buffy the Vampire Slayer--but now it's about everything. They even have a page about this website! (Though currently locked down due to a recent influx of skeevy, skeevy people.)

Beware: it will eat up hours of your life. But I know of no better way to get a comprehensive sense of how stories play out--what the popular paths are, what the unusual ones are, etc. That's where this wonderful thing called "the subverted trope" comes in. Subversions are where the story looks like it's going to do things one way but then actually goes a different way. For example, everyone tells Harry that he's The Chosen One, but he's actually not (it's Neville). Or, Harry is The Chosen One, but that doesn't matter because Voldemort doesn't have any special protection and anyone can kill him. (Neville breaks out a machine gun.)

As to what to do with your current story, well, to be honest, we need to know more about it before we can say anything. There is no "Plot Twists 101" (or rather there is, but it's TVTropes and we've already covered that). There are only specifics to the exact story you're writing. There's always Chandler's Law--"When in doubt, someone should enter the room and start shooting a gun at the protagonists"--but that doesn't work in, say, Lord of the Rings, because there are no guns in that story. Or in Star Trek, because guns aren't very effective there. Or how about, "It turns out that she was cheating on you the entire time!" That's a good plot twist... But it doesn't work in Star Wars because Luke and Leia were never actually together in the first place (thank God). Twists need to be tailored to the story. If you want advice on it, tell us about it.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:03 AM   #4
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Thanks for the info. I will check out the website that you referred me to and MsTarot I will read the story for some ideas. Thanks again for taking the time to help me figure this out.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:31 AM   #5
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I am not for reading someone else's work...

To get an original idea...think to yourself; what seems logical here, then do the opposite, or at least stray off the beaten path.

Most of my stories have all kinds of plot twists and they are favorably mentioned in most of my emails. Just think outside the box. What could she do; what could he do; what could I do that would be unexpected? Then think of a logical avenue to present it.
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Old 11-19-2012, 09:56 PM   #6
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Cool

Quote:
Originally Posted by nakdsub View Post
To get an original idea...think to yourself; what seems logical here, then do the opposite, or at least stray off the beaten path.

Most of my stories have all kinds of plot twists and they are favorably mentioned in most of my emails. Just think outside the box. What could she do; what could he do; what could I do that would be unexpected? Then think of a logical avenue to present it.
I like the occasional story with a plot twist.

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Old 12-06-2012, 01:32 AM   #7
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One thing to be careful of when crafting a plot twist, is to make sure that it is something the reader can follow. If it reads as non-sequitor then there won't be anything to really enjoy about it. That's not to say that you shouldn't write twists that make people want to go back and reread something to see if they can pick apart your devious, carefully constructed plot device, but leading people into a hole and then not tossing them a ladder or rope before the "big moment" invariably leads to the lost attention of the reader.

Make sure there is always some small trail of breadcrumbs to follow the "true" path, if you will. For example, let's take the example mentioned above:

"Harry Potter is introduced as the chosen one, but in reality Neville is the chosen one."

Now that sounds like a fun and interesting twist. What would happen, though, if the character of Neville hadn't been introduced until the last chapter of the last book? Suddenly, people are thinking, "Who the hell is this guy, and why is he taking away from the hero's shining moment?"

For an example for people familiar with JRPGs, take the ending of Final Fantasy IX (spoiler alert, though this game is really old now). You go on this epic journey to save the world from the evil machinations of Kuja, only to find out when you defeat him that there is another "final" boss that was...implied vaguely much earlier in the story, but who never really received any development. And no, its not some mysterious force that was controlling Kuja from the shadows, it was a tree that had been pumping out the mist that was turning cute fluffy bunnies into man-eating monstrosities. Except you disabled that function a while ago and never heard about it again. See where I am coming from?
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Old 12-07-2012, 11:12 PM   #8
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I'm with kikoro. Plot twists are difficult to do well because The Reader, in hindsight, has to feel like they made sense. It might not be what The Reader was expecting, but they had to be aware at some level that it was possible.

And, like kikoro, I'm going to use a video game to do it.

The Mass Effect series is about a human Space Marine named Cmdr. Shepard, who becomes aware of two things: 1) there's a force of interstellar death robots called "Reapers" who sweep through the Milky Way every 50,000 years to harvest all sentient life, and 2) they last visited about 49,999 years ago. The player, as Shepard, has to stop the Reapers in any way possible, and rally the various races of the galaxy to do it... despite the fact that they hate each other's guts: turians and krogan hate each other, turians don't trust humans, no one trusts the quarians. Everyone likes the asari, but only because they're blue-skinned space lesbians, and what's not to like? But I digress. The final game of the trilogy was released, to great anticipation, in March of this year. (Don't worry, I will avoid spoilers.)

Fans hated the ending. And I mean overwhelmingly: the poll run by Bioware, the game's developers, indicated that about 95% of players disliked it. Almost all fan reviews of the game go along the lines of, "It was the perfect game until the last 10 minutes happened." And the reason they hated it was that it was a last-second plot twist. You see, one of the constant themes of the game is that Shepard can do the impossible, can take the third of two options, can find ways to beat no-win scenarios. Two people bent on killing each other? Often they'll talk to Shepard about their reasons, and both will have a point. Shepard will get to either pick Person A, pick Person B... or take the third option, and talk them both into backing down. (There's gameplay mechanics behind that third option, of course: if you haven't done [X] in the past, you might not be able to do [Y] here.) The trilogy is filled with such scenarios, and part of the fun is deciding whether your personal Shepard is going to be nice or be threatening this time. In fact, most fans play through the series at least twice--once to be heroic and once to be cut-throat.

The ending of the game didn't give third options. It was one of the very first times in the trilogy when this was true. All the options you were given involved hurting a lot of people or irrevocably changing a lot of things. In all of the endings, you couldn't save everyone. Supposedly, the third game was going to be filled with similar choices--pick these people or those, choose one friend over another, save some but not all... But Bioware chickened out and removed most of them. And that made the ending seem like it came out of left field. Especially since it reverses the message of the first two games, which is explicitly that you don't have to lose everything, that you can save everyone.

TL;DR: the plot twist failed because it was impossible to see it coming.

It's difficult to analogize a plot twist to some other object; there's little else that has this particular combination. But I think the best way to describe it is to say that, the first time you read a story, the plot twist should feel shocking; the second time, it should feel inevitable. Because the story is either going there or it isn't; plot twists are simply about obscuring the fact that the story is going there, not about "not going there at all". It's like the difference between being the passenger in a car and being the driver. The passenger might be taken unawares by the driver's maneuvers, but the driver knows (hopefully knows) exactly what s/he is doing, and to them the maneuvers feel natural and inevitable. (And they also don't get carsick. The bastard.)


[EDIT] I forgot to mention the other reason fans hated it, though it isn't germane to the discussion; I just like to be thorough. The other reason was that the ending was very abrupt. It takes about 100 hours to play through the entire Mass Effect trilogy, so by the end of it you've spent quite a long time with these characters. Well, at the ending, you make Shepard make the final choice, and then... the credits roll. And the fifteen or twenty characters you spent a hundred hours with? You never find out what happens to them. This would be as if The Lord of the Rings ended with Frodo's line, "I'm glad you're here, Sam, at the end of all things," with absolutely no intimation of what happened next and whether anyone made it out alive--and I mean anyone, because the book uses an unusual structure where the "war" part of the War of the Ring is the first half, whereas the Frodo / Sam / Gollum black op is the second. So last we saw of all the rest of the Fellowship, they were outside the Black Gate giving their lives up as a distraction... and then it's a cliffhanger and we go to Frodo on his sneaking mission. Only after the destruction of the Ring, and the rescue by eagle, do the two narratives recombine... and instead of eagles, Mass Effect 3 had credits.

Now, there's a happy (or at least happier) ending to the story: after the huge furor, Bioware released, for free, an expanded ending that added an epilogue wrapping up the fates of the other characters, which to me was a very material improvement. It also added more dialogue to the terrible choices at the end, explaining them a little more. This is a lot less of an improvement, because the actual structural failure--the lack of foreshadowing--has not been addressed; the ending still comes out of nowhere, it's just more talky now. But it also shows that Bioware is listening and can hopefully learn from their mistakes. And that's always worth something.
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CWatson View Post
I'm with kikoro. Plot twists are difficult to do well because The Reader, in hindsight, has to feel like they made sense. It might not be what The Reader was expecting, but they had to be aware at some level that it was possible.
Murder mysteries are another good example of this. With a standard whodunnit, there's a strong expectation that all the clues required to identify the culprit will be presented along the way, although the reader probably won't manage to put them together until a clever detective reveals the trick.
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Old 12-08-2012, 01:06 AM   #10
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It's great to craft a story, dropping hints here and there hidden inside your plot that point to a potential twist. Even if you don't ever make that twist happen, leaving the possibility out there can make your story feel a bit more alive, a bit fresher. And if you do give them a surprise, your readers can go back and say "Well now, why didn't I see that coming? (when I was)." That's opposed to a surprise where you have no clue, like finding out that your protagonist is an alien, even though you've never mentioned it before. Then your reader is like, "WTF? What do aliens have to do with my previously great story?"
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Old 12-10-2012, 01:53 AM   #11
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vicki vale's question

It's very interesting to discuss insertion of twists into a plot.

C Watson made a number of good points, after stating,

You're not going to like me for this, but my suggestion would honestly be to visit TVTropes.org. It's an encyclopedia of tropes--all the various storytelling devices that fiction employs.



This sounds like the Hollywood-ized version of various books, some quite serious and worthy that have attempted to catalog all the basic plots of stories.

Tennessee screenwriters
http://www.tennscreen.com/plots.htm

polti’s 36
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thi...tic_Situations

Christopher Booker’s wide survey and analysis, "Seven Basic Plots”
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210539


http://www.amazon.com/Seven-Basic-Pl.../dp/0826480373

====

it seems to me that twists, like the macro entities in which they are elements, plots, can be overrated or misjudged as to importance or contribution to artistic merit, or even to simple 'reader impact.'

what i want to say is that adding twists does not necessarily add to the merit a story (in the same way that a plot is not necessarily a determinant of such). complexity often does improve, as do surprises, but 'twists,' as found so often in soap operas, and bad stories, may detract: they are too implausible and contrived, even given alleged 'clues', and they seemingly are the author's attempts to substitute for other values.

'twists' are used, in some fine classical cases--e.g. Romeo and Juliet,-- but subordinated to other literary devices and values. Dickens has nice twists but the stories grab us and keep moving through an number of other means. i'm reminded that there are contests for short stories with
O'Henry-type 'twists.' the twist makes for a subgenre.

it must be remembered that the merit and reader-impact of a story may be exceptional without great plot complexity or major twists. the complexities are elsewhere. example, the play Antigone, is rather straighforward. The plot of Lear, similar to the plot of the movie Ran [king trustingly divides kingdom to his heirs, well before his death, and trusts their assurances as to being loving and loyal], has some mild surprises, but the author's telling grabs us for any number of other reasons. i'm not sure of the name, but for me, the frequent low-level surprises in otherwise predictable plots can make a story interesting. it's quite hard to describe what make a telling fresh and reading grabbing, but i think it's often minor touches. i believe Salinger's 'For Esme' ', available online is a good example.

http://www.dibache.com/text.asp?cat=51&id=173

===========

PS. Cecil Adams column on the topic has (earlier) made some points similar to those above. A good read.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...literary-plots
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Old 12-10-2012, 02:23 AM   #12
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You've made a good point, Pure. I neglected to bring that up, but I am currently working on a longer work that will feature a number of sub-plots but no intentional misdirection. Twists are most effective when you've exhausted the canon material of your fictional universe, which is why you often see them showing up in comic books.

Super heroes can only stay interesting as long as there is some new challenge to overcome, so living in a "normal" world can only last so long before "super-villains" are required to balance things. After all, Superman chasing shoplifters would be about the most boring thing someone could ever read about.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:43 AM   #13
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I somehow end up with a lot of twists in my stories even though I rarely start out planning a twist. My recommendation is to start with a central conflict. The story then is about resolving that conflict after intensifying it. I find that plot twists sometimes happen when I try to come up with a conflict resolution that makes sense based on the characters. I think that if you try to come up with a twist on its own it will likely feel contrived.
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Old 12-23-2012, 09:02 PM   #14
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Ambiguity or lack of detail can help make a "twist" more believable.

Character 1 tells character 2 "I would love to take care of that for you." When what they really mean is "I would love to sabotage that for you."

If the story follows character 2, when character 1 shows up again, he can be vague or outright deceitful, and the reader is none the wiser until later in the story.
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Old 01-26-2013, 04:32 PM   #15
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Hi, all.

A twist can be a lovely thing, and the more experienced your audience is, the more it's appreciated. On the other hand, the twist can't be the only thing that gives the story its punch: You can still re-read "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry, if you know what the twist is.

As a bit of an aside, I find that tvtropes.com is too inclusive: it has everything in it, and often contradictory things. You can't (or at least I can't) understand what the expectation is that you want to subvert: if all things are (treated as) equally possible, it's hard to use that as a guide to what would be surprising.

So a twist has a couple of components: on reflection, it has to be set up (or at least not excluded) by what has gone before. It has to be plausible in the context of the story: if FTL has been (credibly) dismissed as impossible, then having the antagonist turn out to be an extrasolar alien is not a reasonable twist. And for the more outlandish twists, you have to provide something that tells the reader that such a thing is not impossible in the context of the story. (In stories set in or near the real world, you can cheat by letting real-world happenstance do the work for you: contact lenses are possible, about ten percent of the population is homosexual by some counts--so those things are automatically plausible.)

To generate one, I prefer the "yes, but" and "no, but" technique. The protagonist tries to achieve something, and gets either a "yes, but" or "no, but" answer. The "but" is something plausible.

To use an example from William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade, the hero is locked in a cage at a circus. He sees keys...he struggles to get the keys, and yes, but they're the wrong keys. Now he has to find some other way of getting free. (Or he doesn't; there's a whole other story there.)

They meet and join the mile-high club...but find out that they're related in some way and shouldn't have done that.

A girl wants a boy, desperately, and she wants him to ask her out. Yes, but... he is really trying to get close to her friend; he is gay; he is doing it because his mother has been bugging him to and he doesn't really want to; he asks her out for the same night she's supposed to be catering her grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary party.

Or, same situation, she wants him to ask her out. No, but...he likes her, he's just shipping out in a day; he can't, because his parents were terrorist bombers in the 1970s and they've forbidden him to see anyone; he's gay, but he wants to set her up with his friend, who has a great personality; he thinks he did ask her out, and she said no, so he's put her on the "do not disturb" list (yes, but that was her identical sister who hates him....or whatever).

This tends not to generate endings, but try-fail cycles...but that's okay; you need those too.

The other thing is to really consider your first idea. If it's what you thought of first, isn't it possible that it's what the reader will think of? And shouldn't you do something different? That's not always true, but it often gets me deeper than I would have otherwise.

Good luck.
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Old 01-26-2013, 06:56 PM   #16
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Some great comments and observations. I often look at the tropes to see how I can play with them, or "twist" them. And I often find that when I draft a story, I have a twist in mind. Perhaps it is because at times it feels everything has been done before.

But I think that twists should not materialize out of nothing or be added just to make a story different. I like to follow the mystery style of giving all the clues, foreshadow and go in a direction that makes sense in hindsight but might not have been predicted by the reader. I want any twist to feel like a reward and keep the reader engaged to not merely floow along but understand how we got to a new path.
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Old 02-13-2013, 12:10 AM   #17
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Lots of great points, especially by Kikiro and CWatson. I totally agree that a twist has to be foreseeable (even if it isn't foreseen) and believable within the context of the world you've built and the characters you've constructed. Otherwise, the twist jolts you right out of the story and you're left looking at a computer screen, wondering what happened and how. Not a good thing, to be suddenly jolted out of a story.

I wouldn't say that my story--The Rebellious Slave, in Nonconsent/Reluctance--has twists, but I've had several readers comment that it was "unpredictable" or left them "on edge." I honestly didn't plan on it being that way, but after reflecting on the comments, I think I know why some chapters have been described in that way. Basically, I prefer to write and read character driven stories. When you create a character and fully develop him/her, you often understand personality traits readers might not fully understand--even if they've had glimpses of it--so that said character's actions come across as twists to the audience even if they seem perfectly reasonable to you. And if you are writing your characters well, they drop breadcrumbs on their own. That's my take on it, anyway.

When you're planning a major twist, however, I'd be careful not to make the twist the center of the story. It should be a device to enhance character development or plot, not the other way around.
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Old 02-20-2013, 09:14 PM   #18
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When I try for a twist, I use CASE studies-Copy And Steal Everything. I take a twist from some other medium-books, TV, etc, and see how they might fit into story I can write. I got the idea for my last story from an episode of SVU where a white supremacist was actually an undercover FBI agent.

You might also try writing the story backwards-start with the twist and build the plot around it.
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Old 02-28-2013, 12:13 PM   #19
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I think you have too many twists when they're no longer unexpected. At that point, you're like M Night Shyamalan, and people just naturally expect the twist, at which point it's no longer a twist.

As for ways to come up with them, I've heard the advice that you think of a way to solve a problem. Through it out. Repeat five or six times until you've gotten all the obvious solutions out of the way. After that, your proposals should start to be more unique and less expected.
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