Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Taking the Easy Way Out

I was going to take the easy way out today, and blog about OUR NEXT NEW DRUNK WRITER JOINING US VERY SOON!!!, but decided that was a huge cop out. Plus, I think Molly would probably like to introduce her, so I'll restrain myself. But stay tuned....

Instead, I'd like to talk about endings and surprise twists and not taking the easy way out.

I'm struggling with the final act of one of the WIPs I'm working on now. Not that, sadly, I'm anywhere near that point in the ms yet, but I have been thinking about it. Trying to set things up properly to lead to the best possible climax and ending. (and no, I'm not talking about sex.)

Also, I eavesdropped on a little twitter discussion, between Louisa Edwards and Dakota Cassidy today, about Julia & Julie (or is it the other way around?) that got me thinking about twists and ending's, even more. And no, I haven't seen that movie yet, nor do I expect it to have much of a twist ending...

The movie I got thinking about was Junebug. A fabulous little independent film from about four or so years ago featuring Amy Adams. I think it might have been the first time I ever saw, or at least noticed, her as an actress, and I do believe she also received an Oscar nomination for supporting actress for her amazing performance. If you haven't seen this movie, you should.

Junebug isn't about her character, though. The film's about a character played by Alessandro Nivola, whom I love, and his character bringing his older and sophisticated girlfriend home to his much-less-sophisticated family in one of the Carolinas, or somewhere like that. The focus of the plot is on him coming home after so long away from his family, on them as a couple, on the folk artist the girlfriend's trying to sign and the ethical questions there...

Amy Adams plays Nivola's very pregnant sister-in-law, who's about the sweetest, most kind-hearted, naive, but curious-about-the-world character you could ever imagine. And whereas she could come off cloying or cliche, Amy Adams makes her completely believable. (Yes, the casting director for Enchanted must've seen her in Junebug. I wouldn't be shocked to learn the screenwriters for Enchanted were inspired by her performance in Junebug.)

But I digress... My point is, Junebug cruises along, pretending to be a character based story about the Nivola character, that's interesting but not really taking us on a storytelling roller-coaster of any kind (more like a merry-go-round or a pleasant ferris wheel ride at best).

The filmmakers distract us with a little business between the girlfriend and the father-to-be brother... and then BAM. A big twist. Something unexpected (I didn't see a hint of foreshadowing) that changes everything and makes you see the movie in an entirely different way. Makes you think about family and what it means in an entirely different way. Sure the whole movie was about family... but the twist pretty much punches you in the gut.

I don't want to say much more, because it would ruin the film if you haven't seen it, but I guess I aspire to walk the line this film, for me, walks so well. The line between surprising the reader, in a good way, and pissing them off, because you've written something so unexpected it doesn't meet reader expectations.

Yes, I aspire to walk that line, whereas, in real life thus far... I fear any reader will see my hand way before I play any of my cards.

You know what? It just occurred to me. Writing is hard.... Big news. LOL

How do you come up with a plot twists? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

9 comments:

Molly O'Keefe said...

I have never been able to plan the big twist - the twist - if I have one and I usually don't - is one of those things that comes to me. That if I try to plan it - it's ruined with heavy hands.

Kristen Painter said...

My urban fantasy book has a few surprises in the end, but it just worked out that way.

And yes, writing is hard. Wicked hard. So hard I have no idea why I'm doing it somedays. Like yesterday. And today.

Sinead M said...

The twists are freakin' hard.. anyone sense a theme here.
I either know the twists upfront or they hit in a rare moment of divine inspiration, but we all get so few of those..

Kimber Chin said...

I don't come up with plot twists. I'm not that clever.

(Though some readers did write me after reading Invisible to tell me they 'figured out' who did it - which I found interesting because it wasn't a mystery)

The only surprising thing I do (I hear) is not cop out. My killer hero in Flawless (out in Feb) remains a killer. He doesn't magically become the perfect guy.

'Course that also means my novels aren't as marketable so I wouldn't use what I do as an example.

Eileen said...

I think the twist has to be inherent in the concept. At least that's how it's worked for me so far in writing suspense novels.

What I'm working on now is trying to provide an emotional twist to my work. I feel too predictable sometimes.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Eileen - love the point about the emotional twist. So often I focus on the "reveal" in the mystery and I hope it's a twist from what the reader expected.

All my energy goes there so much that the resolution of the romatic conflict is often... mundane.

I'm working on that now for my next WIP for SRS.

Steph

Maureen McGowan said...

Great insights, all.

My fear is certainly that the twists and reveals will be, well, mundane.

And it's sometimes so hard to judge once you've had the book in your head for a long time. What seemed exciting when you first conceived of it, can soon seem predictable...

Oh, I just thought of a way to twist my current WIP... hmmmm... wonder if it'll work...

Eileen said...

It's so hard! We all know where we're going to end. It's one of the things I count on in a romance novel. How to make that ending satisfying and still surprising? I don't know. It's a struggle!

Alli said...

Oh, good post, Maureen! Like all brainwaves, I get them best in the shower. No idea why. Maybe it's something about the steam clearing my head or the fact I don't have the rugrats climbing over me and I actually five seconds to think.... Anyway, the twists usually come out of nowhere - usually when I've been stuck, given up on thinking about it and then whammo! the idea slaps me in the face.
I love the Ferris reference, BTW. :-)

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