Thursday, 19 February 2015

Writing - White man speaks with forked tongue



As there were difficult circumstances in my mother's upbringing, orphaned at the age of 11, she had a slightly negative view of people in general. Sadly, she believed that you couldn't trust anyone and in some ways, as was inevitable, I am very cautious with people. This can colour writing but it also triggers ideas of hidden plots and twists in the stories I' write.

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The title of the blog comes from one of the many films I watched with my Dad in the 1950s and 60s and refers to the fact that the Indian nations in the USA were often misled by the white population.

So I'm back on the theme of 'writing from where you're at'. At the same time a little self-reflection can be of great benefit in life as well in telling stories. Stories can benefit from having an unusual twist within their progression and I've always enjoyed a good story, usually crime thrillers, with twists and turns in the plot. I believe that part of the skill is disguising the unexpected in your story until the last possible minute.

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This is a skill that I'm not about to lecture you on as I've not fully accessed it myself it just seems to be a clever thing to do. What it seems to have is a greater need for planning which I'm not hot on, I prefer to write. However, I'm having a go in my current project, which is another Steele story tentatively entitled 'Grace and Favour'.

But what is it the writer is actually doing? Well they are lying to their audience, being dishonest, messing with the reader's head but quite often generating praise in the form of a story well-told. So for your consideration I have some examples that you may be familiar with or if not you may wish to look into for yourselves.

Usual Suspects

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The Twist - Verbal is Keyser Soze
For a minute, it seems like Keyser and Dean are one and the same, which would have been a decent enough twist. Throwing Verbal into the mix made it that much better.

Psycho

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The Twist - Norman Bates is the killer, and his mother is living inside him as an alternate personality. 

Norman seems so sure of his mother's existence that audiences can't help but be convinced as well—until the film dissolves into a Freudian field day.

The above are a couple of good examples, now for the others!

The Notebook

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The Twist The old lady at the beginning of the movie is the young lady in the rest of the movie.

It didn't work that well because of Nicholas Sparks failing to pull the wool over our eyes.

Signs

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The Twist The aliens can be destroyed by water and Graham Hess' wife's seemingly incoherent death-bed ramblings actually predicted the way to slay the aliens.

These super-smart aliens decide to come to a planet that has the one substance that can kill them on 70 percent of its surface—really? A massive loophole in the plot.

So even hugely talented people can get this aspect of storytelling wrong. Signs was directed by M Night Shyamalan and The Notebook by Nick Cassavetes. The point is that you can also get it right and as an unknown, when it works, it will have people saying 'wow!'

So my mother's advice on not trusting people may have stood me in good stead. I often find that I analyse the motives of people sometimes to the nth degree which is also an aspect of my psychological need to get things right - OCD. Okay so I'm a crazy mixed up kid. The whole analysis thing is partly what is needed to produce twists in plots.

God Bless