Come with me on a dangerous trek, a journey through my writer’s brain.
Ever do those maze puzzles? Your job is to get from point A to point B through a series of baffling twists. There are a zillion ways to go from point A, each turn multiplying the possibilities. They’re frustrating and fun and before I finish I inevitably want to scream at the guy who drew all those *&@!! twists.
That’s a writer’s job in a nutshell: to write those screaming twists.
Last month I talked about verbing. Today I’m contorting the average storyline into something more–interesting. I’m taking my example from Biting Me Softly, because it’s handy and I know how I changed it. Oh, and because it just released in paperback this month (wink-wink, nudge-nudge say no more). “I” in this case is Liese, a girl-next-door computer geek. Logan is six-three of golden graceful vampire. Liese has followed Logan into a dark sewer, lured by odd howling. She has tripped and fallen.
Here’s the original.
I breathed deep, put my hand out to push up and encountered boot leather. Was this what tripped me?
This goes from A to B to C. Breathe, hand out, boot leather. No surprises.
Here’s the updated version. Note the expectation set explicitly, A, expecting B, getting C:
I put my hand out to push myself up. Instead of cold concrete my palm hit leather. I froze. Was this what tripped me?
And from there:
I brushed tentative fingers along the leather, identified a work boot attached to something. Stiff fabric, like jeans. Moving farther I encountered what felt like a leatherette coat.
A man? If so, he wasn’t moving, like…a dead body. I panicked, scrambled on hands and knees to find the neck, to find the pulse.
Where there should have been a neck, there was nothing.
This is pretty good, especially the part where she searches for a pulse and not only doesn’t find one–she doesn’t even find a neck.
My secret for solving those *&@!! maze puzzles is to start at the end and work my way backwards. And that’s the secret to writing those lovely twists too! Decide what you want to have happen, and set a different expectation first. Simple, but not easy. Easiest is to set the opposite expectation, like expecting concrete and getting a boot. Harder but sometimes more satisfying is veering slightly off, like a car chase where you’re expecting a car to chase Our Hero but instead a monster truck screams onto the road. Or if you’re going for humor, a unicycle.
What about you? If you write, how do you create twists? If you read, what are your favorite twists?