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The Twist

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 19, 2022

I remember the first time I watched The Others in the cinema. (how I miss going there…)

It was an awesome experience. Not only because the horror/thriller film was excellently shot with really good actors, but because it played with shadows and your mind in an elegant but unforgiving way. It was your standard haunted house story. We follow the main characters as they are frightened the more they realize they are being haunted. More and more, the pressure from the ghosts increases, and living in the house becomes stifling, terrifying, unbearable- and then, when things seem to swell into even more horror, when everything is at its most intense to resolve the mystery- there came the twist.

The main characters weren't being haunted by ghosts. They were the ghosts. They were the ones haunting a poor (living) family that had just moved into the house.

And just like that, everything we've lived through in the movie takes on a different meaning, simply because of the different perspective that the twist puts them in. All the mysteries are resolved. All the story is now reset, and we feel the calmness, the satisfaction of knowing what is going on.

That's the beauty of a good twist ending, or a climax that is also the major twist in the story.

There are many ways to build such a twist. Primarily, this kind of thing usually can't be improvised. To pull a good twist off, you need to know the plot start to finish, and understand what is going on so that the way the plot is presented can be set up for the twist:

1. You need to know what the true plot is
2. You need to know what part of the plot can plausibly be construed to be something else
3. You need to know how to arrange the plot progression so that this alternative situation is set up as the real one for the audience
4. You need to know when and where in the plot to place the twist that clarifies the situation and reveals the truth.

If you do it right, most people will genuinely not see the twist coming. Mostly because when we watch a movie or read a webcomic, we trust the creator to take us on a journey. Unless the narrator is shown to be unreliable, we tend to accept what we're told as true. Some people in the audience will see through the setup and guess the twist. And that's great! It means the story is solid. (Like The Sixth Sense)

If you don't do it right, people will either not see the twist coming, and not buy the twist reveal. (This is where the Shyamalan gif comes in. He's done both.) But in order not to do a twist ending right, you need to either allow the story to be really formulaic, or not take the time to set up the twist by dropping hints and little insights that make the story reframe in a logical manner if the twist is known (like Signs…).

Bottom line: just like a good whodunnit's culprit, you need to plan the story ahead in order to pull a solid twist ending.

What are some twist endings you really like?

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hushicho at 5:09PM, Feb. 20, 2022

Make The Yuletide Gay is a delightful film that has the best twist I have probably ever seen in film, because it's very amusing and changes the entire way you see the story when you watch it again. And the great thing is, knowing about the twist doesn't affect the story detrimentally, it actually makes it even more amusing because you notice things that build up to that twist. It's remarkably well-written aside from a few missteps (which are almost immediately resolved anyway), and it is one of a very few examples I can think of where a twist adds something and makes the work more enjoyable multiple times.

hushicho at 5:07PM, Feb. 20, 2022

I hate most twist endings, because most of them are not organic to the story and end up jarring or pretentious. A lot of writers think they're cleverer than they are, and it ends up ruining what they did right before then. Harry Potter's a prime example of clumsily-done twists that aren't really germane to the narrative and clearly weren't thought of until the last moment, but there are so many. Unless there's something that most people would think of as a twist in the story to begin with, just leave it alone. No one needs a twist if it's not something that fits.

PaulEberhardt at 3:29AM, Feb. 20, 2022

My lecturer in English literature back in the day shocked a couple of younger students by calling the Vader-twist in the original Star Wars "perfectly predictable", because in terms of epic narrative it was just a logical consequence of the overarching light and dark (Yin and Yang) motif that connects all the storylines (or at the time when he watched it in the cinema both of the storylines) as a central theme. He's got a point, but I tend to think he wasn't entirely truthful. In retrospect you do kind of see it coming if you pay close attention, but I daresay for a normal person like you and me who just watch a movie for entertainment this twist doesn't fail to hit home. Still I was more surprised at the second Vader twist in the next part, when it is revealed what evil Lord Vader looks like under the mask - it shouldn't be surprising if you think of it, but I remember I was.

PaulEberhardt at 3:06AM, Feb. 20, 2022

I was tempted to mention "Bad Monkeys" by Matt Ruff, but it's perhaps too much of a good thing there. That novel has a very unreliable narrator who keeps changing parts of the story whenever she's caught lying and thus kind of maneuvers itself into having to overdo the final rapid succession of twists so they still have an impact - but also push the limits of confusion a narrative can take. Still a good read. The Harry Potter series as whole is another example for building in perhaps one more twist than strictly necessary, but they're convincing enough for it to get away with them. I still don't like the Hollywood-style ending of the last part, though, because the previously complex web of twists and counter-twists lead me to expect something more than just getting over the final battles and living happily ever after.

bravo1102 at 10:49AM, Feb. 19, 2022

If a writer is good they can keep their options open for the big reveal twist. It doesn't have to end with the twist but give every indication it'll twist and suddenly end normally just to mess with you even more. Some writers will say they have no idea about the twist when starting the story but get to the ending and realize the possibilities were there all along. And then go back and add some hints and red herrings to the script before committing to print.

bravo1102 at 10:44AM, Feb. 19, 2022

Twilight Zone again. Oh so many and all so good. The 1960s anthology series were full of twist endings and sadly having watched so many, well many modern stories are just borrowed or inspired by episodes of those old black and white series. Yeah, I'm the guy who figured out the twist ending of a 300+ page epic fantasy novel on page 3.

usedbooks at 7:32AM, Feb. 19, 2022

As an avid consumer of anthology series, I love a well-done twist. The best twists are "hiding in plain sight." So many anthology episodes have amazing twists (too many for me to pick from) but a couple of my favorite movie twists were Knives Out and Shutter Island A good twist or reveal makes me immediately want to rewatch (or play if a game), because second watch is a new experience when you have "the knowledge."

marcorossi at 3:01AM, Feb. 19, 2022

Thinking of plot twists, I think plot twists work well when they represent a geowth for the main character from whose point of view we see the story: the character acquires a greater knowledge of the world, and therefore of him/herself, and this is what gives meaning to the twist.

marcorossi at 2:58AM, Feb. 19, 2022

I liked Shyamalan's The Village a lot, but for some reason it wasn't very succesful.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 1:05AM, Feb. 19, 2022

SPOLIER ALERT continuation: Here's the twist. The past wasn't the past, Vattic wasn't experiencing flashbacks of the past, it was the present all along. John Vattic was this whole time subconsciously using the psychic power, the last one revealed in the game, which is the power of Precognition to see into the future, which you thought this whole time was the present, and change the timeline. Vattic was using the knowledge he got from seeing the future to change the outcomes in the present to subsequently change the outcome of the future. I was totally blown away by this twist. It really showed me what fascinating stories can be made when you involve psychic powers.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 12:59AM, Feb. 19, 2022

SPOILER ALERT: One of the most brilliant twist endings I've ever seen is in the video game Second Sight. You play as a Dr. John Vattic who wakes up injured in a hospital with amnesia. He quickly discovers that he has psychic powers which he unlocks one by one from his subconsciousness, recovering more and more of his memory, as the game progresses. The story shifts back and forth between the present and the past, where John is with a military squad on a mission to locate a scientist in Siberia, with each level. Now when you do these levels taking place in the past, you first get to see an outcome in the present that, after you complete the chapter taking place in the past, is mysteriously altered by this other outcome happening in the past.

davidxolukoga at 12:41AM, Feb. 19, 2022

One of the most iconic twists of all time was the epic Vader reveal scene. That's my favourite of all time

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