First of all, as I do my ghostwriting blog, let me give a little endorsement for green tea and the cafe where i drink it: Betterday. You people think it’s all about coffee. Let me tell you, the buzz you want is the green tea buzz. The buzz of the Dalai Lama, who can see into your soul.
Anyway, today we’re going to talk about “twist” endings. I’d say there are two kinds of twists: the twist that completely changes the entire meaning of the story down to the core, and the twist that makes you go “huh!” Because it just makes the story a little bit more interesting and fun at the end.
The Shawshank Redemption type of twist is the former. It isn’t really a twist, actually, it’s the entire plot. You watch Andy DuFresne living in prison, becoming the warden’s bookkeeper, making friends, developing his rock-collecting hobby, but you know, as you watch, that this movie is about more than that. You can’t quite figure out why he’s doing certain things, but you know there’s a hidden agenda. In the end, you realize every single thing he has done has been toward this plan to escape from prison, which he carefully planned over the course of 20 years.
For Andy DuFresne, there is no twist. He finally got what he had been planning all along. But the viewer is surprised. You knew something secret was going on, but you didn’t know exactly what. In the end you’re impressed with the protagonist’s intelligence and you go “Ah ha!” This type of twist doesn’t change the future of the story. Instead, it changes your perception of all that happened in the past.
Then, you have the other kind of twist, which is more humorous, and instead of making you say, “Ah ha!” it usually makes you say “Oh no!” because instead of revealing the truth about the past of a story, it changes the future of the story. For instance, in the beginning of The Italian Job (the modern version), there is a heist, where the Kevin Spacey character turns out to be a double-crosser all along.
Forget about the rest of the movie for a minute. If you think of the opening heist as a story in itself, his double cross doesn’t change anything that happened in the past. The heist went exactly as planned, and his intention to double-cross didn’t alter his actions during the heist in any way. What this twist did was to change the future of the story, instead of the past. As a result of it, the other characters go on to seek vengeance.
In this story, the twist comes early, because it sets up a complicated revenge plan, but a twist can also come late in a story. Usually when that happens, there is no revenge. It’s just a matter of the double-crosser basically getting away with it and everyone stands there stunned … unless there was a triple crosser all along!
In that case, the double crosser will get double crossed and . . . well, the process of double crossing could go on forever as long as characters all have secret agendas. The more depth to the characters, basically, the more juicy the double-cross.