12 December 2014

Plot Twists: What Are They and How to Plot Them

The straight and well-defined line of the Plot Planner is an attempt to control the twistier and often blurry reality of the Universal Story. Plot twists engage readers. Each time the dramatic action twists in an unexpected (and carefully foreshadowed) direction the protagonist is forced to define new goals and perform difficult tasks, pointing the reader in the direction of her true goal.

At each of the 4 Energetic Markers, imagine and list five horrible antagonists that create five most horrible events. Look for people and action that feel the most thematically true to the protagonist's ultimate transformation AND that twists the story in a new (and carefully foreshadowed) direction. The Plot Planner guides the direction and degree of story intensity and provides a place for expansion. Each horrible thing broadens the readers appreciation of the protagonist's sense of self beyond the limitations of what was currently visible in the story.

The New England Horror Writers (NEHW) just today followed me on Twitter, @NEhorrorwriters and RTed one of my tweets to their followers. I followed back with the comment how horror writers penetrate our deepest fears and bring darkness to light.

In real life most of us run from the dark. We're afraid of the unknown and always looking for the light or dulled to an ashy grey. We deny our feelings and our protagonist's their shadows. We attempt to navigate the straight and narrow line of the Plot Planner, afraid of losing control of the story and falling into an abyss.

The braver you are, the bigger your story. Rather than confuse the reader, each plot twist spins the story deeper into the darkness of what haunts the protagonist, urges her to take heart and gather her courage for her next defined test of initiation and, in the end, brings the light and her true personal power.

At each step deeper, name the emotion. Search for the truth in the emotion. Convey that step, that emotion in an active, energetic and meaningful way, fulfilling the three major plot lines:

Character Emotional Development Plot -- emotion
Dramatic Action Plot -- steps taken / resistance met
Thematic Significance Plot -- defines that action / the meaning of her emotion

At each twist and turn and dark thing that happens as she pursues lofty ideals define her next specific short-term goal. Imagine the next horrible thing, obstacle, challenge, demon she meets. Foreshadow and twist the forward action in yet a different direction that affords a new view of her. Show emotions thematically true to her.

Each time an antagonist twists the story in a new direction, the protagonist defines a new goal like an arrow flying in the direction that brings forward her true purpose, releases power and provides her the freedom to conquer her fears and align with the final confrontation in her willingness to transform.