By Christine Amsden | April 1, 2011 2 Comments
Sure, I like a good twist as much as anyone. It’s thrilling when you make a discovery that is both unexpected and, in retrospect, makes absolutely perfect sense. Sometimes, it feels like, “Aha!” and sometimes, more like, “Ohhhh….” Either way, it’s fun.
BUT (you knew there had to be a but), not every story needs a twist ending. In fact, as the twist ending gets more and more popular, the aforementioned moments of thrilling discovery get weaker and weaker. Feelings like, “Oh, I saw that coming a mile away!” or “That’s been done before!” replace the more enjoyable reactions.
In fact, I recently read a short story that thrilled me because it failed to produce the expected twist at the end, thereby, ironically, feeling pretty twisted to me. (Not wanting to spoil the ending, I’m afraid I can’t give you the details, but perhaps you’ve run into something similar?)
Trends and fads occur in literature and movies just as in anything else, and right now, there is a tendency to want the ending to be a twisted surprise. Yet, for me, it’s far more important for the ending to be satisfying, rather than surprising.
If I love a character and feel for his or her predicament, I can enjoy living their journey alongside them, even if I’m pretty sure I know where it’s going. Even if it turns out I’m right.
The romance genre is full of predictable endings. The whole point of the genre is the HEA, or happily ever after. We know that the hero and heroine will get together, and yet millions of people enjoy the ride. When I put such a book down in frustration, with my mind going, “Uh huh, and then they fall in love and live happily ever after, yadda, yadda, yadda…” it’s because the characters and stories aren’t interesting me, not particularly because I know how it will end. (Although there is a level of predictability that can defy even the sought-after HEA.)
I would also like to point out that a shocking ending can only be experienced once, whereas a satisfying ending can be enjoyed over and over again. (Kudos to you if you can do both.)
So writers, if you can’t come up with a thrilling twist at the end of your story, it’s ok. Most stories don’t need it, and by not adding unnecessarily to the overabundance of twists out there, you may inadvertently help the stories that do need it to be that much more surprising.