Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Twists and Turns

Don't you just love a story with a good twist at the end? We like the surprise, the freshness of the path less traveled. But why limit a story to one good plot twist? Readers may not always recognize every Story Turn they happen upon--especially the small story ones. 

Story Turn is where the reader is set up by the author to expect something dramatic or a change. It could be as simple as having a rough character momentarily show compassion or humor. Okay, so this may not be considered a plot twist, but it is a Story Turn and it affects the pacing of the story. It raises new questions and greater curiosity. Story turns are for the reader, not the characters in the story, sais John Brown in the LDStorymaker conference class I attended last week. "Readers want to puzzle and worry," Brown adds. This questioning or worrying is often triggered by a 1) Threat, 2) Hardship, 3) Opportunity, or 4) Mystery. Brown uses the acronym THOM. Not all Story Turns have to be positive or negative, and they should be varied within the story.

Brown suggests brainstorming for possible twists and turns. Work forward with a Story Cycle or backward with a Step List. What the writer is going for, according to Brown, in planning a Story Turn is to first incite a question or problem. Secondly, a THOM is presented to cause a different action than anticipated. These turns occur at the structural and scene level. We need the main question raised in the beginning to be answered in the end AND we need a turn or mini-turns in each scene to drive the pace. See if this short quiz strengthens your understanding.

Which THOM is used for the main story question in the following book/movie?
     1) Les Miz
     2) Jurrasic Park
     3) Pride and Prejudice
See how well you did? Now that's what I'm talking about! Now figure out the THOM for one of your favorites.


Rebecca H. Jamison said...

Thanks for posting this, Renae. I didn't make it to this class.

Renae Weight Mackley said...

No problem, Rebecca. It was hard to choose my classes but I found this one quite useful.