Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Surprise Twist Ending

There are certain formulas we have become accustomed to in story telling. You've heard of  “set the problem, pose three obstacles in increasing intensity, climax, goal achieved, and resolution.” It is a mantra most writers repeat as we construct tales, from the shortest picture books to novels. When analyzing all but experimental literature, something of this pattern becomes evident.

There’s a new must in picture books, often referred to as the “surprise twist ending.”
 I wonder. How surprising is an expected surprise? Reading many newly published picture books I will have to be a spoilsport and say that while I detected this convention in most, few of them yielded a genuine surprise.

There lies the art. Formulas will never do.

Here are a few mini examples that, to my jaded mind, work their magic. These are from a site on Jewish Buddhism, a combination that invites a twist. 
Warning: out-of-the-box thinking required.

Drink tea and nourish life;
With the first sip, joy;
With the second sip, satisfaction;
With the third sip, peace;
With the fourth, a Danish.

Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health,
Or life without problems.
What would you talk* about?
{I’d change “talk” to “write”}

And finally, apropos^

If there is no self,
Whose arthritis is this?


Vijaya said...

The Danish totally worked for me! LOL!

Kelly Hashway said...

lol I guess an expected surprise isn't really a surprise, is it? ;)

Anna Staniszewski said...

I think you're right that if we expect a twist at the end then it's not really a twist. On the other hand, I love feeling that the story might continue. To me that's a satisfying twist, even if it isn't a surprise.

Anonymous said...

And some surprise twist endings just feel tacked on. Not good. On a sunnier note, now I have a hankering for a danish. =)

Evelyn said...

Fun post. I want my danish, too. But I'll have mine with hot cider or OJ. :)

Hava Rembrand said...

I loved the quotations from Jewish Buddhism.You inspired me to find the website. Here is another gem:
"There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?"

Johnell said...

Ah that was a belly laugh. Good food, danish flavored, for thought.

Barbara Etlin said...

I'd like a cherry Danish with my tease, please. :-)

Have you read this book: Haikus for Jews: For You a Little Wisdom by David M. Bader? I highly recommend it.

Mirka Breen said...

How did this place become a Danish pastry shop? ;)

Yes, I have the Bader book. I think the reason the juxtaposition of these two culture creates surprises is that their starting points are on two different planes.

sruble said...

Wonderful post, Mirka, and so true about a formula making it hard to produce a genuine surprise. Guess that means we will all have to write the best stories we can, and eat a Danish or two too!

Marcia said...

Not "my" arthritis, certainly. I don't like when people claim diseases ("my diabetes," etc.). We shall have to look elsewhere for proof of the self. :)

Yanting Gueh said...

Lol, that Danish bit! If a twist is expected, it isn't really a surprise anymore. Most of my favourite picture books leave me smiling because they end with warmth or hope, not because there was a twist.

Jenni said...

I like surprise endings, but only if they make sense. My pet peeve is a surprise ending that changes the whole book. Like you find out the protagonist was really a villain or vice versa. One of my favorite surprise twists was the twist in THE FALSE PRINCE. It was surprising, but when you thought about it, it really made sense.