Going along with what I mentioned a few posts ago, I’ll be expanding on the topic of what helps hold reader’s attention. This post will be about the twists and turns in a story.
The other day I was headed upstairs to grab something really quick, when my little sister Cianna saw me. She decided I just had to sit down and watch a movie with her, and take up an hour or two of my time. But the princess had spoken and there was no way out, besides it was one of my favorite movies, Megamind.
If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Megamind is a hilarious family movie about a super hero and super villain. The Movie begins with the super villain, Megamind, finally defeating the Super hero, by consequently killing him. But after a while of happy-go-lucky villainy, Megamind begins to miss his old fighting buddy. And sets off to make a new hero to fight.
Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but lets just say there are many twists, surprises, and shocks. Which is one of the reasons I like it so much. (Really, if you get a chance to see this well crafted, and very fun and funny story, I think it is worth your time.)
Watching it reminded me about the importance of twists and turns in my own work. If the conflict in a work is straightforward, simple, and easy to resolve, it will easily be forgotten, along with the rest of the story. Any you don’t want that.
I’ve seen Megamind countless times, and I never grow tired of all the dips and turns. It’s always as fun as the first time I saw it, and I would expect we would want the same for our writing. What we must do then, is to make memorable conflict. (Which is usually at the core of most stories.) We must make it deep, layered, and uneasy to resolve. With plenty of twists and complications to keep the reader guessing.
Another good example of keeping your reader guessing is in Man Alive by G. K. Chesterton. I haven’t finished it yet, but it starts out rather simply and picks up a few questions as it goes along. Then suddenly everything snaps and thing are flung into a totally different direction, that you never suspected. Just when you think things are going to go on this way, they go the other way. Soon there are so many questions and unexpected things, all you can do is hold on and see where it goes. And even though I’ll probably be wrong, I still keep guessing what will come next. As I said I haven’t finished it yet, but it is very griping, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the twists and complications are not small. Sometimes smaller one are called for, but don’t neglect the very dramatic ones that make you sit up straight and shout “What?!” at the pages.
Think of some of your favorite stories, then think of how the conflict was. Was it layered? Did it have unexpected turns? Did it keep you guessing? Did you find yourself flying through pages and asking “How are they going to fix this!?” And as I said before don’t be afraid to make things really bad, even if you don’t know how to fix it just yet. Your the writer, you’ll think of something! After all, you have command over your own world and can do whatever you want in it.
Now remember, not all stories need super dramatic SAVING THE WORLD conflict. But even in smaller conflicts, we can still have many of these qualities. Within the conflict, it helps to have public as well as private issues at stake.
In Man Alive, the story is contained in one little house and garden. For all those involved, the stakes are high on a very private level. Though if things go wrong, the consequences could be rather dire for the public.
So when planning your next story (especially the conflict), remember to think of ways to make it gripping, hard to resolve, and with plenty of unexpected turns and complications. After all, it will only make your characters stronger!