Monday, December 3, 2012

Story Twists and Ripples

by Stephanie Morrill

One of the best parts of both writing and reading a book are the unexpected twists. But I think twists are most effective when you balance them out with what I call ripple scenes.



These are scenes that show the effects the twist had on the characters. I'm going to use the movie Tangled for this post. I know some have issues with using movies instead of books, but I just hate to ruin twists from a book.

One of the early twists in Tangled happens when Rapunzel and Flynn have left the tower. Flynn is looking for an easy out of the quest, so he takes Rapunzel to a rough bar in hopes that she'll get so freaked out by all the ruffians and she'll beg to  be taken home.

But instead we get our twist. The ruffians recognize Flynn from his Wanted poster, one goes to get a palace guard, and others start fighting about who will turn him in for the reward money. Just when things are looking really bad for Flynn, Rapunzel steps in and saves the day. She shares about the dream of her heart, to go see the floating lights. The other rough guys then begin singing about their dreams, and now she's rallied everyone to help her out.

While Rapunzel's actions save them from the angry mob, this twist of Flynn being recognized and Rapunzel singing sends out several story ripples:


  • The palace guards are alerted, so now they're chasing after Flynn and Rapunzel.


  • Rapunzel's "mother" sees Rapunzel singing about being glad she left the tower. She realizes what she's up against, and that she'll need to change her tactics to get Rapunzel back.


You'll notice this twist isn't one that works in the main character's favor. It's one that strengthens the opposition.

Something else follows this twist that I think is a wonderful technique - a brief moment of recuperation. When Rapunzel and Flynn are in the secret tunnel escaping the palace guards, they have a quiet moment where Flynn is showing interest in Rapunzel and her story. We get a glimpse of the subtle change in his heart (he now cares, even slightly, about somebody besides himself) and that helps to anchor how the twist in the story has changed things for him.

Now let's make it yours! In your story, are you taking time to show how the twists effect the various characters? 

Don't forget, today is the last day to enter the 110 word writing challenge, so make sure you get your entries in soon.

Also, there are just 2 1/2 weeks of the 100 for 100 challenge, which is pretty exciting. Looks like lots of you are finishing strong!

22 comments:

  1. Hmmm...honestly, I never even thought about that before. On one hand, just the other day I realized my WIP doesn't have much of a plot and my main character doesn't have much of an end goal. So...yeah, not really any "twists" yet. But I never thought about the "ripples". Thanks, now I'll be aware of that!

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    1. Well, now you can throw some twists in there when you figure out the end goal :)

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  2. Yeah I'm working with this right now actually. One of my characters helps another run away from slavery. But I just realized that because of this characters desire for fame and glory it would be a very hard decision to free this other character. Deciding to make it a major struggle in this guys life has given my story a whole new depth that wasn't there before and will help tremendously with certain character developments later on.

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    1. How fun, Anne-girl! I love discovering those deeper layers in the story.

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  3. I love Tangled! Truthfully, I've never thought of the twists that way. Thanks, Stephanie!!

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  4. This is great! It made me think of the times I used it and I feel so clever right now! Thanks! ♥

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    1. It's so nice to find out you naturally did the right thing :)

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  5. I've never really thought about this...I'll be sure to make a note of it for my next novel. ;) Neat idea...and I love how you used Tangled. I'm a fan, lol.

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    1. Me too, Olivia :) I re-watched the scene for writing this post, and it was really hard to not watch the rest of the movie too.

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  6. Great post! I also love it when there is twists in a book! It makes you want to read on and just see whats going on! I never did think about the ripple effect after but I guess your right!!
    Thanks!

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    1. Twists are the best. Especially as a reader since you don't have to do any of the work :)

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  7. I have a tendency to want to cut my *recuperation* scenes. My betareaders told me they must stay! It is good, as a reader, to get a moment to take a breath before the next roller coaster starts. And get some insight into those characters.

    Love Tangled. ;)

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    1. Aren't betareaders the best? It's a tough balance to achieve.

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  8. Dun dun dun....need to start figuring out some twists and ripples...I think I got a few...in my head anyway eheheh

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  9. I agree. This makes me feel really smart as well. In my WIP, this happens rather organically, so I feel all proud of myself. Nice post. :)
    (Yes, that's right . . . Even my smiley faces are professional)
    On a different note, when will the contest winners be announced?

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    1. The top 20 will probably be announced on Wednesday or Thursday. The finalists will be announced next week sometime.

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  10. I need one of these in my story but how?

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  11. In my current WIP, twists and ripples are there. As usual, though, I'm delving too deeply into introspection. I tend to let the protagonist think too much. Will have to abbreviate some of those meditative moments. ;)

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  12. 1) I lo-o-ove that picture.

    2) I'd never thought of that before, but I really like you explain this, Stephanie. Makes a lot of sense and since I am guilty of finishing Insurgent by Veronica Roth in less than twelve hours yesterday (all whoppin' 525 pages!), I can really see how she uses ripple scenes. I like it.

    3) Huge Tangled fan here!

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    1. 1. My husband took that :)

      2. Thank you! Divergent is on my shelf waiting it's turn :)

      3. I always think of you when I watch that movie!

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