Friday, November 20, 2015

Plots – Part 3 “Twists and Turns”

Last week, I introduced you to the cliché-filled story of Addy, a princess who joins a rebellion that miraculously wins against a flat, unmotivated villain [Addy’s Uncle].

Shall we rejoin Addy in her quest? Perhaps we can inspire some changes which will help her story for the better.
Indeed, with a few plot twists and minor edits, Addy’s story can become a fairly decent story idea. Still cliché in some areas, but we’ll address those in the coming weeks.

First, however, we need to note a few important things. Plots twists are not always surprises. It’s common to think of a “plot twist” as one of those “Luke and Vader” moments where something is revealed to the reader that was not expected.
That is simply one form of a plot twist. A plot twist is simply a change in the story which provides more conflict, more tension, and makes it more difficult for the hero to achieve his goal. These are sometimes referred to as “disasters”. Yes, these disasters are often surprises, much like Vader’s revelation to Luke (which is, in fact, only a surprise if you watch those movies in the order they were released in theatres rather than in chronological order). They don’t have to be surprising. You can even let the reader see them coming, so long as we are still surprised at their magnitude.
For instance, the Balrog in Moria. Tolkien warned the reader, just as Gandalf warned the Fellowship, that entering Moria would result in bad things happening. However, no one expected the bad things to be just as bad as they were.
Plot twists offer change. It’s change that the reader expects, but it become a change that far outdoes the reader’s imagination.

Back to the story of Addy. Before we adjust the plot, I want to fix a few of the clichés involving characters.
Let us assume Addy is still a princess. However, she is perfectly content with her position. This will solve her cliché existence almost entirely.
Also, Tom is just some random peasant. Maybe he works for the cooper in the town. (Can we also assume this world is more developed than having “trees and stuff and a few random villages”?)

Now for plot changes.
Instead of her uncle taking over the country, how about a neighboring country finally makes good on their threat of invasion. They sweep across the land, desolate her father’s castle, and hang him from the rubble. Addy, along with servants, assorted peasants [like Tom], and her mother escape into the mountains.
From here, instead of finding rebels, they create their own little village and learn to survive in the harsh wilderness that is the mountain passes. They struggle to create a society. All this time, Addy and her mother mourn for the king’s death, a father and husband they lost too soon, in too harsh a way.
Then come problems. Winter is coming over the peaks, a harsh winter their settlement does not yet have the supplies to survive. So, Addy and Tom and a few others set out down the mountain to retrieve said supplies.
Along the way, they find desolate farms and desolate workers turned slaves for the invaders. Addy and Tom start a rebellious faction, return to the mountains long enough to bring back their people.
This rebellion picks up steam and eventually attacks the invader’s stronghold, a stronghold put up near the ruins of Addy’s father’s castle.
They are repulsed. Defeat is so strong the rebels disband. Many are dead, the rest are broken in spirit.
So Addy and Tom (perhaps her mother was captured in this attack) search for other ways to throw the invaders off their soil. It takes months, but they learn how to fight, how to be quiet. They become assassins.
In fact, they begin to assassinate the invader’s leaders. One by one, they take out the important people.
By the end, Addy is offered a choice: kill the invader’s king or let her mother and Tom die.
She has to choose: sworn duty or family.

Hopefully, by now, the reader is stuck to the book, unsure which choice Addy should make. They don’t even know which choice they would make.
This story still has cliché moments. But it’s getting better, is it not?
I’m going to stop there.
We’ll pick up the story again next week, but in the meantime, I hope the point is coming across. Even cliché stories, even cliché plots, can become decent storylines. A tweak here, a change there, extension of conflict, addition of words, scenes, even chapters, it can all add up to a story worth reading.

Do you employ nasty little plot twists in your novels? Do you make your readers stop and stare in shock? How? Leave a comment and share!

SPECIAL NOTE: Would you look at that? This is the fiftieth post. My how time flies. In addition, we're ten days away from the end of NaNoWriMo! How's it going? My story's plugging away and hopefully yours is to!


  1. Wow I would totally read this book. The post alone kept me pressed to the computer screen. Awesome stuff, Bender!

    1. Pffft.
      Well, I'm glad it's working.
      I'd hate to have a poorly created plot for my posts on making good ones. O.O

    2. Haha, certainly would be a lost cause.