The Twist: making plots complicated since the first story

I finally got to see the movie Frozen yesterday. My brother may make snide comments, but I loved it and I will continue to love it even after he accidentally watches it by proximity and devotes himself to eyebrow-raising and sending me mocking gifs. But I digress. Aside from the fact that it was a wonderful story with beautiful images and a nice heroic ending, the thing that had my analysis sub-brain on hyper was the twist.

There are two twists I’m thinking of, and that I’m not going to go into much detail about because my mom is reading this and I want her to be able to enjoy the story fully without me spoiling anything. One was predictable and reasonable, and the other has to do with the resolution of the story. Because while it all ended happily (but only after great danger, naturally) the way the hero and heroines of the story got to that happy ending surprised me. And that’s a good thing.

I haven’t read or watched every story in existence, but I think I can say with reasonable certainty that one of the key elements in every story is the twist. Also known as the game-changer, it’s the thing that happens anywhere from halfway through the story until two seconds before the end that ramps up the tension, adds complication to make the ultimate happy finish that much harder to achieve, and possibly alters the way you view all the previous plot points. It doesn’t have to be especially complicated, it can be obvious or subtle. It can be a screw-up, a reveal, a complication, or simply a change in the “normal” way a story is supposed to progress. It doesn’t even have to be something so significant as any of those.

But it has to be there because it’s necessary to keep interest. Let’s face it, without some slight change in trajectory in the third act, a fair number of stories would be boring. If Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father, that duel somehow loses its luster. The twist jolts you awake, makes you start paying attention to the little details again.

Not to say that every twist is a good one. There are ones that come out of nowhere, ones that don’t fit the plot, ones that add needless complications (see just about any soap opera). There are ones that used to be good but they and their close cousins have been used so many times that they’re entirely too predictable now (like, say, “Luke, I am your father”). But then there are the good ones that make it all worth it. The ones where, looking back, there were clues the whole way, but you didn’t see it coming until the moment it happens and now it makes perfect sense (my personal favorite). There are also ones that are easy to see coming, but they don’t quite happen the way they’re supposed to. And lots more.

So here’s to the twist ending, that beautiful elusive creature that makes stories worth reading and life worth living.

If any of that makes coherent sense, yay me. Most of that was me thinking about Frozen and also about the ending of my own story, which can currently only be described with the following metaphor: it’s hanging over my head like a giant flaming boulder while I’m on a rope bridge over a pit of snakes. I can use the boulder to smash through the treasure room door and get the diamond, or it could just drop and kill me. So if I stop writing this blog suddenly, you all know what happened.

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One thought on “The Twist: making plots complicated since the first story

  1. Pingback: Icicles and Sauerkraut | Silver Boxes

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