Twists and When to Have Them

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Sion
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Twists and When to Have Them

Postby Sion » Thu Dec 08, 2016 5:04 pm

Before I start this discussion I am going to compare to movies: The Witch (2016) by Robert Eggers and The Village (2004) by M. Night Shyamalan. Both are set in a Puritan New England style setting. Both are about communities of rustic individuals beset by the dark woods that surround them. And both are horror/thrillers. However the major difference is that only one of these movies has a twist. Considering that one of the directors has made an entire career out of his twists it is not that much of riddle. The other major difference is that I think the Witch is a fantastic movie that genuinely creeped me out while the Village was just a disappoint to me.

Now this is not a spoiler. Basically within the first few minutes of the Witch it is revealed to the audience in no uncertain terms that there is a real witch, with real powers, and is really evil. What I am saying is that the supernatural element of the Witch is real and demonstrated and there really is no twist that happens in the movie (which doesn't mean the ending is lame or uninteresting). This is contrasted with the Village where the twist in the end is that the community is set in the modern times and it is all just some Luddite cult that lives in some restricted government property, or something I don't remember the specifics. In order to create a twist, the Village sucked away the supernatural, the wondrous, and the mysterious from the story. Now the Village has more problems than just its twist, but it does not help with getting me scared as the audience. There are movies and stories with twists that I love. But I was just interested in how two movies so similar in concept are so vastly different and the superior version doesn't have any twist.

Personally in my own views on storytelling I do not go for the twist. I place twists in the same category as killing integral characters. It has a secure position in any writer's toolbox, but I feel that both have been kind of put on a pedestal of storytelling.
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Re: Twists and When to Have Them

Postby clintmemo » Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:40 pm

I have not seen The Witch but I remember really enjoying The Village - mostly because I was certain what the twist was going to be before I ever saw the movie. And knowing that was where it was going made it much better, IMHO.

A twist is like anything else. A really good twist is a really good. But a really good twist has to make sense and it has to further the story. It can't contradict things the players know. There has to be ground work laid out for it. It's not a mystery you want them to solve, but once they see it, you want them to realize that it has to be true.

In a game, I feel like the sign of the perfect twist is something one player bursts out in a moment of joyous excitement, right as it is actually revealed.
If I had 4 players, the 4 responses I would want to hear would be:
"He is the Luke's father!"
<forehead slap>"Of course!"
"What!?"
"No Way!"

A bad twist feels like something the writer made up on the spot because they ran out of ideas.
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Re: Twists and When to Have Them

Postby Leoff » Thu Dec 08, 2016 8:53 pm

What I dislike are plot twists that feel as if they just wanted to make the book longer, or wanted to look clever. Not all stories need plot twists. But when there is a plot twist, I want it to be "oohh, I did not see that coming!" good.

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Re: Twists and When to Have Them

Postby Sion » Sat Dec 10, 2016 9:03 am

Here is my question: What is the difference between a Surprising Reveal and a Twist? Or is it a distinction without a difference?

For instance, does Empire Strike Back have a twist when compared to something such as Fight Club? Or is that just a surprising reveal of information?
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Re: Twists and When to Have Them

Postby Luos Nomed » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:16 am

Outside of the two movies you mention, I think there's another form of this that gets used lot, but is related to the movie The Village. You see it a lot in the crime shows that are on now where you get scene A (or clue A) and then B and of course they obviously add up to X. Then we get scene C (or clue C) a little later and "Surprise!" everything now adds up to Y.

The other way this is being done more often in TV or Movies is with the flashback, sometimes paired with the imperfect Narrator.

In my opinion, this is different than an actual Twist. I feel like misleading the audience so you can generate surprise is it's own thing. It's certainly open for debate as to when something is a twist vs something else. I think these things are all related on some sort of spectrum.

I would frame it like this maybe (I'm just making this up as I go, so be gentle)

    1. A twist is hidden from both the in universe actors and the viewer.
    2. A "gotcha!" is apparent to the in-universe actors but hidden from the viewer.
    3. A "walk" is hidden from both the in-universe actors and the viewer, but they are both "walked" to the conclusion by the story at the same pace (i.e. both the detectives and the viewer are given clue C at the same time).

Like many things, I think all of these can be done in a way that's enjoyable, or can also be done horribly and just suck. I too find The Witch to be the superior movie of the two you started with, but for me it has nothing to do with the fact that it doesn't have "a twist".

Anyway, hope any of this helps you hash out your question. If not, well, it was free.

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Re: Twists and When to Have Them

Postby Magmoo » Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:48 am

A good twist plays upon peoples expectations and natural logic systems. Ideally it is not through concealing a crucial point but rather an unlikely interpretation of all the facts. If done well it should lead to a reexamining and reassessment to make sure everything fits well.
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Re: Twists and When to Have Them

Postby Burning » Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:32 am

Sion wrote:Here is my question: What is the difference between a Surprising Reveal and a Twist? Or is it a distinction without a difference?


I think it's a difference in degree rather than kind. Most of the stuff you learn in the course of a movie is just information. You didn't know it before, but it's not really surprising. Things are surprising when they contradict something you were assuming (possibly without even realizing it because you didn't realize the alternative was on the table). So the reveal makes you reevaluate the stuff that was informed by your false assumptions.

The reveal in Empire makes you reevaluate Obi Wan and Yoda's interactions with Luke and it makes you reevaluate Vader's motives, but there's also an awful lot of the plot of the movie that it isn't really relevant to. The reveal in Fight Club on the other hand makes you reevaluate just about everything. But the difference is more in how much the reveal touches rather than in the reason why the reveal is surprising.

And I think that gets to the core of why really big twists are so hard to pull off. The more you touch, the more things still need to make sense after the reveal. Also, if you make your audience do that much reevaluating, the more of a payoff they're going to want for their effort.
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