I have an idea for a story with a "twist" ending that I'm not certain will work. The basic idea is that there is a prophesy suggesting that a certain girl will save a city from corrupted leaders. All through the book, the characters think that Sue (I haven't come up with names yet) is the girl who will fulfill the prophesy, but in the end Sue is killed and Anne, the POV character, finds out that in fact she was the one intended to fulfill the prophesy.
So if you read this whole book thinking that Sue was the one to fulfill the prophesy, and then at the very end found out that it was Anne, would you feel cheated? I'm not violating any POV rules because not even Anne, the POV character, knows that she's the one who's actually prophesied, but I don't know if this would be one of those twist endings that would make you throw the book across the room in frustration and never read my stuff again.
As long as it seems like a logical outcome rather than a contrived means of springing a "surprise" on the reader. My rule is that if you can't read a book twice and enjoy it more the second time, then it's not worth reading in the first place. I don't mind if the ending is surpising, but if that's the only reason you're doing it, I won't read your book in the first place.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999
Just make sure that there are some subtle clues throughout the story so that it doesn't seem totally out of the blue and it comes as a sort of revelation to the characters as well as the reader. There should be this moment where both the readers and the characters say, "Oohhhhh..." and everything makes sense.
So it all comes down to whether or not I can pull it off. Well, okay, I can do that. Maybe not right away, but it'll be fun to try! It's not as if the prophesy is the most important thing in the story--that would be taking over the city--but as the prophesy is about who will lead the rebellion over the city's leaders, it is important.
Now I just have to figure out the best way to write it so that it doesn't feel like a cop-out ending or something to that effect. Sounds... interesting.
I love the idea. Its not a cop out. You might want to read Poul Anderson's "The Man Who Counts" and Heinlein's "Podkayne of Mars". Be warned, some readers hated Heinlein's story so much he had to re-write it before they lynched him. So you have to get an original version to see the twist ending.
[This message has been edited by keldon02 (edited September 25, 2005).]
I think it's a good idea, too. I don't believe I would feel cheated.
I was thinking that if you're worried about how to pull it off, perhaps the POV character believes she has a different, supporting role to fill in the prophecies' scheme. She doesn't see that she is the one to save the city, because (in her eyes) the prophecy plainly said she had a different role. I think This would give both the POV character and the reader a sort of distraction, especially if her percieved role is a challenging one. (And maybe part of the surprise is she ends up fulfilling both roles.)
Echoing what's been said; it's not cheating if it's done well.
When "Bulletproof Monk" was made, the original intention was for the apparent "lead character" - who you were assuming throughout would be the next guardian of the macguffin - to die at the end, and his female sidekick/love interest to be the one who actually became the guardian. Everything that he did to fulfil the three-stage prophecy, she actually helped out, and he wouldn't have succeeded without her. In the end they bottled out and had both of them survive and "share" guardianship, but I think the original intention was braver and would have been better.
Misdirection is a time-honoured technique, and so long as it does not dissolve into a mass of red herrings, it's a good tactic to use. Ideally, the end result should appear perfectly sensible, even inevitable, and the reader should feel faintly annoyed (but only faintly) that they hadn't worked it out all along, while also feeling "pleased" that everything has worked out the way it "should".
Okay, I would feel cheated if it was painfully obvious from the start that the POV character would turn out to be 'the one'. Especially when the prophecy is 'confirmed' with some sort of sign that leads one to say, 'yeah but... what about the other girl, she fits the profile too.'
Posts: 1678 | Registered: Aug 2004
I would not feel cheated, but you have to steer your boat between the subtle hints (ie not overdo it and make me guess that the POV character is the one) and the complete surprise (because that would be cheating). But if it's well done I'd think it a welcome take on the matter.
Posts: 1075 | Registered: Sep 2004
Some readers are going to guess more easily than others--that can't be helped. On another board I'm on, it was interesting to see the variety of responses to a story that used misdirection to disguise the fact that the POV character was an animal. Some guessed it right away, others not until the end. So it's not an area where you can hope to deceive all of the readers all of the time . Aim for 'most'.
Posts: 245 | Registered: Aug 2005
quote:...the reader should feel faintly annoyed (but only faintly) that they hadn't worked it out all along, while also feeling "pleased" that everything has worked out the way it "should".
I love it when I get that feeling as a reader! That's what I'm aiming for with this story. What I'm most worried about is when I kill off Sue--I'm wondering if, since most people hopefully won't know that it was really Anne that was supposed to fulfill the prophesy, they'll all give up on me since all hope is lost.
I guess the hard thing is going to be walking the tightrope with "too obvious" on one side and "cop-out" on the other. Where's my parasol?
This sort of thing is more common in short stories than in novels. In a novel it will be difficult to keep the reader from guessing that final plot twist. I'm not saying it can't be done, just that it will take excellent writing skills.
Posts: 976 | Registered: May 2001
Don't worry about whether the reader guesses it. Worry about whether anyone would want to read it again. People that never want to read your story again do not tend to recommend it to others.
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999
I agree with Survivor. Many times I guess the ending to a story, but I keep reading because I love the ride. There was a Hatracker who posted a story here a while ago about "animal cruelty". It had a very nice twist, I saw the ending about midway through, but I absolutely love that story because of the way it was told.
The few stories I've read (or movies I've seen) that truly surprised me had that same quality. Even if the twist hadn't been there, I would have loved the story because it was so well told and the characters were unforgettable.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't worry about where to place clues and how much to reveal... I just wouldn't get too hung up on it.
Ooo, ooo, I thought of an example. May not be the best, but here goes.
Logan's Run (the movie)
Okay, without getting really deep into the plot, Logan and a chick whose name I can't remember are running toward a place called "Sanctuary". This is the place where all the humans go who don't want to die at the time the computer -- the entity who runs their city -- appoints. An entire system exists within Logan's hometown (a city cut off from the rest of the world) to help these "Runners" get to Sanctuary. However, through the course of the film, I began to wonder why I didn't see anyone coming back from Sanctuary to help the Runners. Everyone had this magical view of Sanctuary, but no one had actually seen it.
This is where the twist comes in.
After Logan and the chick have been running for a while, and are pretty far from the city, they find a very cold cavern. In it, is a robot named Box. From what they can gather, Box is very old and his job, before the city became what it now is, was to freeze creatures for future consumption by the humans.
Box invites them to see his collection. However, instead of animals, they see humans.
The humans who ran for Sanctuary.
As the realization sinks in, the obviously malfunctioning robot announces he's going to add them to his collection. There's a great action-filled scene where they try to escape, but I remember thinking to myself "well, crap! There is no Sanctuary! What are they going to do now?"
I'll just say that I loved the turn the story took, even though it left a lot of loose ends that just begged to be cleaned up.
I have also added the book to my list of "required reading". I know the twist, but the story was so intriguing that I would love to read it (or watch the movie again).
[This message has been edited by Keeley (edited September 27, 2005).]
Be sure to hint at it so slightly along the way that a reader going through it a second time will see it coming, but a first time reader will be misdirected.
If you can accomplish this, you will have created a great work that any reader will enjoy. Well, the other important things will have to be there like characters, plot, good writing, but the twist bit would be satisfying.
When finished you want the reader to think, *I should have seen that coming,* and at the same time make it nigh impossible for them to have.