Recently I read about a fellow writer’s troubles on a list I’m on. She was lamenting that her plot had been replicated by another writer, though these two had never met or communicated in any way. She outlined the plot, and I couldn’t help thinking the plot wasn’t unique; there was but a single twist in an ordinary tale of two people hooking up. How many people are in the world? How many people might, if pressed to come up with a single twist in such a story, come up with exactly the same one? We’re all human–hard-wired similarly and exposed to the same society and media. I’d bet that most of us even had similar childhood experiences. So is it such a stretch to believe that two people on opposite sides of the country might settle on the same twist in a not-so-original tale?
I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve written on heart disease and diabetes and incontinence. It gets mind-numbingly difficult to come up with a fresh lead every time for these recycled topics, especially if there isn’t any new, groundbreaking research to point to. I’ve found, though, that if I think on it long enough, a spin will come to me that I haven’t thought of before (grateful nod to the Spin Fairy). This is another example of why writing nonfiction can help a fiction writer: experience crafting the twist.
Of course it’s more complex with fiction–or at least it should be. For nonfiction, a single twist can be enough; for fiction, it shouldn’t be. Twist too little and you’re still in the box; you’re just looking up at the sky from within it instead of staring at the walls. To truly unbox, you must twist, twist, twist your story concept until there is no way anyone else could have thought it up. Yeah, yeah, but a monkey will craft Shakespeare if given a million years and a typewriter, I know, but it’s still unlikely anyone would replicate a well-twisted concept.
Alrighty then. Let’s see how one favorite brilliant twistmeister did it… [Read more…]