Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Best Twist Ever!

Thanks to Deb for coming up with another great idea for a blog hop! These hops are more than just an entertaining way to recognize our favorite stories. As writers, dissecting twists, endings, beginnings, etc., helps us come up with ideas to make our own projects stand out.

Before I get to my choice, I want to talk about what makes a twist work. They are completely surprising, yet supported by everything that has come before. They make readers/viewers feel like they should have seen it coming. They can be summed up in one simple sentence. When they happen in the middle of a book or TV series, they take the show into a completely different direction, but one that works with what’s happened before.

Most good twists center around the protagonist’s identity. (In fact, there’s a whole movie about that very question that Kerrie so aptly described yesterday. The protagonist doesn’t know something important about him/herself, and the twist is the discovery. This includes such biggies as Luke finding out he’s really Darth Vader’s son, Harry learning he’s a wizard (although it happens so early in the series, is this really a twist?), Malcolm Crowe discovering he’s dead, and the entire cast of St. Elsewhere living in some kid’s head.

The Empire Strikes Back was the first time I was exposed to this twist, but is it the best? I would say not, because the clues were just not there. George Lucas could have thrown a few tidbits during Star Wars and the first three quarters of Empire. I have a feeling he didn’t because he didn’t know himself that Darth was Luke’s father. And then he just went nuts, with Leia and Luke being twins and all the head-scratching stuff that happened in the prequels. Thank goodness J.J. Abrams is in charge of the new movie.

The Sixth Sense contains the most well-known twist, and it’s one of the most well-done. All the clues are there that Malcolm is dead – the most obvious one being the desk he works on in his drafty, creepy old basement, surrounded by mementoes on the floor. I have to admit I didn’t get this one – I had heard there was a big twist, and I was convinced that somehow Cole and the crazy guy who killed Malcolm would have some kind of genetic connection. So I was concentrating on that, and missing the obvious fact that the kid who could see dead people was the only person addressing Malcolm directly.

I’ve gotten much better since then. Shutter Island? Called it.

My entry for this blog hop is the much discussed, much debated 2000 Christopher Nolan film, Memento. To jog your memory, Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man who developed short-term amnesia in an attack that left his wife dead. The police say they caught the guy who did it, but Leonard believes he had an accomplice (the police do not), so he’s going after that guy himself in order to kill him. Leonard writes clues in his body since he can’t remember anything for longer than 15 minutes. As such, the film itself runs backwards, with the next scene happening chronologically before the scene it follows. It was confusing, and I saw several people walk out of the theatre in the movie’s first half hour.

Because of this format, just about every scene contains a twist, and also enough clues that hint at the movie’s resolution. The two most shocking twists came at the end. One, Leonard’s wife did not die in the attack that left Leonard brain-damaged. Rather, Leonard himself killed her by accidentally giving his diabetic wife insulin twice. It was a test, because she didn’t think he really had amnesia. Leonard passed the test and his wife died as a result. The second huge twist is that Leonard had already killed one man he blamed for her death. After that death, he deliberately hid those clues from himself so he could start a new game of find the killer.

With the viewer being completely in Leonard’s point of view, both these twists were stunning (although the diabetes clue had been dropped near the beginning). Yet they follow the rule of identity being the linchpin of the twist.

AMBI Pictures recently announced that it will be remaking the film, so perhaps a new version might be a little clearer. (There’s also a DVD available that runs the action in chronological order.)

Please tune in tomorrow, when Deb finishes it up for us!


  1. Ooh...I've always wanted to see that, and now I want to see it more. (Does the movie still work chronologically?)

    While I make it my mission to talk about how much I can't stand Star Wars, I think Lucas did have "Luke I'm your father" in mind the whole time. There's a foreshadowing scene in the first movie (or the fourth- whatever) in which his uncle and aunt talk about his father. Someone who has the dialogue memorized can give you an exact quote, but it's something like, "he reminds me of his father" "yeah, that's what's bothering me". But even if Lucas knew it was coming, it doesn't mean he did a good job with it!

    1. I know exactly what scene you mean. I think it's just a lucky coincidence ... Owen was referring to his worry that Luke would take off for the stars and leave him to moisture-farm on his own just like his brother did ....

  2. Memento was a great movie. I can't believe someone is trying to remake it already!
    After Sixth Sense, I've been disappointed with M. Night's movies as they don't have the powerful twist like SS did.