Or Serve It With a Twist

If the outcome, or the crisis itself, seems too predictable, like the traditional western gunfight, you can throw in maybe one surprise element—not attacking guerrillas, but something you've carefully refrained from hinting about. If you've set the stage for a duel, deliver a duel, all right—but fought with dynamite instead of guns. If your build-up has promised an explosion at a bank, deliver an explosion—but one that not only opens the safe but sets fire to the thieves' getaway car.

Never fail to deliver what, implicitly or explicitly, you've promised your reader. But don't assume you have to serve it up in the same, predictable old dish, either.

Your sudden twist mustn't change the basis of the confrontation itself, like guerrillas in the middle of a domestic argument (unless, of course, you're writing surrealistic farce, in which case all bets are off, anyway: even twittering nine-armed Martians are legal, then, if they work). The mood and meaning should be the same, regardless of the twist. Don't make the scene anticlimactic, like a duel that's fought with wet spaghetti or water balloons, or a ball where friends try to keep the feuding male and female protagonists apart—and succeed, so nothing happens after all.

Play with Murphy's Law. Try to think of what, within that fundamental situation, could go surprisingly wrong, yet seem believable and reasonable, within that context, when it happens.

For instance, on the mountain, Simon finds, not a monster, but a dead pilot. But since Jack's tribe is in the process of turning into warriors, and since the irrevocable step in that transformation is their killing of Simon, a dead soldier isn't a neutral thing either. It's the essential savagery and warlike inclinations of humanity that's the Beast in the book. So it's a real Beast, the real and only beast, which Simon discovers. It's just not the sort of beast either Simon or the reader had expected.

The scene throws in a twist, but it works. It delivers true monsterdom, in the book's special context, and monstrous things come of the discovery. It works better than it would have if Simon found nothing, or Godzilla. And part of its being better is the surprise twist that makes more sense than finding either nothing or a trampling reptile, because it's appropriate to its context. We couldn't have predicted it, but it fits. It works. It's a masterly twist—one of many in the book. There's another at the end. And, no, I'm not going to tell you how it all comes out.

Read Lord of the Flies, if you haven't already. It's not cheery, but you'll learn a lot about laying evidence, build-up, and delivering set-pieces from it. Also, if it's any inducement, it's short. ...

0 0

Post a comment