May 24, 2019, 10:35:25 PM

Author Topic: Plots without twists and payoffs other than surprise  (Read 2402 times)

Offline Yora

Re: Plots without twists and payoffs other than surprise
« Reply #15 on: June 10, 2018, 05:18:33 PM »
I've been trying to write down the important plot points of several stories with very simple plots that still worked to be interesting, and I think generally speaking there is some kind of pattern that shows up repeatedly.

Often, at the surface, simple stories are simply go from place A to B to C to D. When the characters reach place B, they get the information that points them to place C, where they get information that leads them to place D. This is rather boring but becomes more interesting when they simultaneously also get more information and better understanding of what is really going on and what they are dealing with. One of them can be a twist, but it doesn't need to be. And the new information does not even have to be an amazing surprise. Just learning new stuff can already be sufficiently interesting, even if it isn't anything that goes against previous expectations.

When you read Lovecraft today, none of the reveals are ever surprising in any way because they all have been copied a thousand times. You know what kind of story you are reading and you have a pretty good idea what the reveals will be. But they can still be very entertaining to read.

I think that it might actually be possible to write stories and perhaps full novels that consist basically of revealing setting and revealing character this way. Of all the Clark Ashton Smith stories I have read, I can't remember a single one that really had much resembling a plot. A character walks along a path and sees curious things that are part of the strange setting. Not necessarily amazing stories, but they do have some entertainment value.

If the world is interesting enough, then a story might get away with very little in the way of conflict. Man against Nature could almost always be used as the external conflict and the internal conflict wouldn't need to have a great amount of depth or an elaborate resolution.
However, the biggest challenge I see is how to properly end such a story. Smith almost always ends with the protagonist suddenly getting eaten by a suddenly appearing monster. Lovecraft always tries to go for the big reveal at the end, but at least now it's never actually amazing. Or surprising.

Offline Toby Frost

Re: Plots without twists and payoffs other than surprise
« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2018, 09:17:03 AM »
Yes, I don’t think you really need twists, especially big ones, for a book to be very entertaining. I also think that the bigger the twist, the greater the chance that the writer will lose me as a reader. If it’s just a character revealing that he’s working for the enemy, fine, but if it turns out that all the characters are actually a hallucination in the mind of someone else, I’m likely to be put off unless it's very well done. I suppose it’s when the twist doesn’t enhance the story as much as fundamentally changing or damaging it.

Personally, I find it quite difficult to write plots that aren’t the A, B, C, D structure you mentioned. It can get a bit samey, and each episode of the story can seem like collecting coupons to be allowed into the finale. That said, some books are so complex or their worlds so intense that twists aren’t really needed. I don’t remember Neuromancer really having plot twists, but the setting and style meant that it was both immersive and quite hard going without them.

Offline Jake Baelish

Re: Plots without twists and payoffs other than surprise
« Reply #17 on: July 26, 2018, 07:01:44 AM »
Lord of the Rings might be one of the most A-B-C fantasy novels there is, and few would claim it be anything other than a masterpiece (at least for its time). And I agree, sometimes twists and surprises can get so convoluted they damage the story overall. King's The Dark Tower is one of my all time favourite series (and undoubtedly my favourite characters in literature) but it suffers in the last 3 books from an endless barrage of completely unexpected nonsense. If I had to name a series that balances both sides, it would be Sanderson's Stormlight Archive  :)
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