Monday, January 9, 2017

Gasp!

One of my favorite books of 2016 was I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. It was a great read for a number of reasons, one of which were the twists. But . . . I read a lot of books with twists. Why did this one stay with me? I couldn't put my finger on it until I read this post - "Surprise Me" by literary agent extraordinaire, Janet Reid, where she says:

"I want to gasp. I want to put the manuscript down and just enjoy that moment when the author turns the story upside down."

Yes! And that's exactly what happened to me when I read I Let You Go. I found myself scrabbling back through the pages to see what I missed. But you know what? I hadn't actually missed anything.  

Ms Reid explains it like this: "That's what surprise is: we had the info, but we didn't know what it meant. . . A good surprise makes perfect sense but you just didn't see it coming."

I want to do that for my readers, whether it's in the short form of a story or in the long form of a novel. I want them to have that moment, maybe even more than one. It's certainly something worth striving for, even if it is, as Ms. Reid says, ". . . really, really simple stuff . . . and hard as hell to carry off."

Is there a book that stays with you because of its twists and turns? How about a movie or TV show? Do you aim for that in your own writing? How do you achieve it? 

34 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Arrival had one of those moments and it was a biggie.
We all wish we could capture that surprise moment. Closest I came was my last book.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've got Arrival on my To Watch list! Looking forward to it.... :)

Christine Rains said...

I try really hard to capture that surprise moment too, but I don't know if I'm there yet. Awesome writers make it look so easy.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

They really do make it look easy! I've written "regular" twists before, but I'm not sure I've ever achieved the "gasp!" twist.

Anonymous said...

The closest I can think of is a video game that I can't remember the name of right now. The twist at the ending just blew my mind.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Madeline,
Thanks for this post. I agree that simple stuff is hard to pull off. The writing in some of the best books I've read seems effortless, but as I've grown as a writer I have learned how hard it is.
I haven't read I Let You Go, but it sounds like an interesting book to add to my list. Thanks for the suggestion.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I never thought about this in relation to video games. Thanks for opening this fuddy-duddy's mind to the idea. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I think I admire the "effortless" writing even more now because I know how difficult it most likely was to get it like that. :)

I would definitely check out I LET YOU GO. Mackintosh's next book comes out this spring - can't wait!

Maria Zannini said...

That's the real secret isn't it?

Surprises are best when the clues are in front of you all the time.

That's when I slap my head and say, why didn't I think of that? :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Yes, I've read books like that and watched a few movies and TV shows. Sherlock did that to us with their first episode this season. Code Name Verity is a book that you'll never forget, ever.

Sarah Foster said...

I love reading or watching twists. Anything that makes my mouth hang open in shock is always entertaining. I haven't really written a "twist" exactly, but there is a bit of a surprising moment in my WIP that I really like.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I love that moment, both as a reader and as a writer. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I've been hearing a lot about that first episode of Sherlock....

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Ms. Reid's whole post was interesting because she uses movie examples as well as talking a bit about what's not considered a twist.

And good for you for having those surprising moments in your WiP. If you like them then your readers will probably like them, too.

Chrys Fey said...

I'm going to have to read this book. :) I love to read books that surprise me. I like to write them, too. ;)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I think you'll like it. I raved about it when I read it, and I even bought it for people as gifts. :)

J.H. Moncrieff said...

The Sixth Sense had me reeling. That whole movie, I wanted Bruce Willis's character to reunite with his wife so badly and save their marriage. When I found out the truth, I was devastated. Couldn't even talk to people for a while.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Yes! I totally remember that movie, that moment when we find out the truth. Love when that sort of thing happens. Although, I am sorry you were devastated!

Annalisa Crawford said...

Fight Club, for me. Greatest twist ever. Book over film though.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Excellent, Annalisa!

Nicola said...

Clare Mackintosh is an excellent writer and a great person too. I had the pleasure of spending a week with her at a writing retreat in France. Hope you enjoy her latest thriller! Happy New Year, Madeline!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I bet that was amazing! And I am so looking forward to her next book. :)

Happy New Year to you, too!

Julie Flanders said...

There's a show/book series called Game of Thrones that makes me gasp quite often ;)
I'm going to have to add this book to my list. Nothing better than a great twist.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I love those great twists and turns in novels, especially mysteries. I admire the writers who can do it so well. I'm adding this one to my TBR list.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Hmm, I believe I've heard of that show.... :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Another good one is Megan Miranda's ALL THE MISSING GIRLS. She plays with the timing and the structure of the story so well.

emaginette said...

This sounds like the best read ever. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Definitely one of my favorites from 2016!

The Cynical Sailor said...

I love twists, but they have to be done well, which is hard to do as you point out. I wish I could pull it off effectively in my own writing.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I might be able to think of the twist, to come up with the concept or the idea, but pulling it off? Not sure I'm there yet. :)

Lee Lowery said...

This happened to me with The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan. I looked back several times to figure out the twist and wondered how I'd overlooked the obvious. This is a skill I dream to emulate.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It really is a skill, isn't it? One that I hope can be learned with study and practice. :)

Tyrean Martinson said...

It's an amazing skill, and one that I need to work on having. I was slightly surprised by one or two twists in Claudia Gray's Lost Stars, which is one of the Star Wars books so, you can imagine, there's a lot of trope and familiarity there, but she managed to do a few things with the characters that I didn't expect.
For real gasps though, I'm not sure I've had a lot of those in movies, shows, or books lately. I do like Gotham because they go to some unexpected places every once in a while, and the same goes for Black List - both are pretty dark shows and sometimes the "dark" gets expected after a while. Hmm.
I'll have to find some books, like the one you've mentioned, to help me study big plot twists. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

It's different to come across those kinds of twists as a reader then go back and study them as a writer. It's fun, though. :)