Monday, March 14, 2011

The Twist & The Turn

Book artists for years have talked about the little twist at the end of the book, the little surprise that is concealed and then revealed, but after reading about Hitchcock and seeing his films I am coming to the conclusion that the twist is not what I want: it is the turn that is more satisfying.

Twist and turn. Twist and shout. Martini with a twist. Pardon me while I riff a little. If the twist is a surprise, we have no way of knowing it is on its way. It's the punch line. Or maybe we do get clues, but then we are just bracing ourselves or waiting for the end. Oh, the story is told from a dog's perspective, I had no idea. How clever. Now I have to read it again to see how I could have missed it. The twist plays a mind game.

The turn is more subtle and can go deeper, I think. The book heads along in one direction, say a meditation on trees, but then it turns into the life of a chair builder. The reader moves down one path which branches off (no pun intended) and takes us in a different direction altogether. The reader gets to change her perspective during the story, not after it. The reader feels included this way. No tricks were played. No trees were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Hitchcock uses two terms, surprise and suspense, when talking about revealing and concealing. He finds that he can get more watchable minutes and capture our attention for longer with suspense. Perhaps we can get more readable minutes out of the turn, unless the twist is absolutely necessary to the art.
…we…[can give] the public fifteen seconds of surprise…[or] we…[can provide] them with fifteen minutes of suspense. The conclusion is that whenever possible the public must be informed. Except when the surprise is a twist, that is, when the unexpected ending is, in itself, the highlight of the story.
Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock by François Truffaut (73) 

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