Monday, 28 April 2008

It's not as easy as it looks

I spent the early part of this evening typing up the twist in the tale story I wrote 3/4 of last week. I finished it, edited it, tweaked the word count and posted it on my writing community for critique.

It's a twist in the tale story, I wrote. Did you guess the twist?

The results were disappointing.
4 out of the 5 people who read the story guessed the twist!

One of my critiquers tried to be kind by pointing out You did tell us it had a twist.

Well yes, but the same thing happens in most of the magazines when they stick a great big rectangle in the top corner of the story announcing "Tale With a Twist"!

The readers will feel pleased with themselves for guessing the twist, someone else said.

Um yes. Maybe. But that's the not the point. The point of a good twist in the tale is for the reader to spend the whole time desperately trying to work out the twist and then exclaim "Wow, I never would have guessed that!" at the end. And that's what the editor will be looking for too.

I asked for more feedback - what was it that gave the twist away? What didn't work? What could I tweak to make the twist less obvious?

A couple of the suggestions I received were really good so I incorporated them into the story. Obviously I can't re-post it now to see if it works because everyone knows the twist but I THINK the twist might be a bit less obvious so I'm sending off anyway. If it wings itself back from Take A Break in 3 months time I'll know I didn't quite crack it.

So anyway, for anyone who's ever read a twist in the tale story and thought "Talk about money for old rope. I could knock one of those out in an hour." I dare you to try!

It's not as easy as it looks.


Jumbly Girl said...

I know what you mean about the big give away Twist in the Tale banner, it alters the way you read a story if you are looking for the twist. Would be much better if you knew one of the stories in the mag had a twist but not which one :o)

Good luck with your story!

KAREN said...

I'm writing a twist in the tale at the moment, and recently submitted another one to Best.

I must admit, I generally guess the twist when I'm reading a story, but it doesn't ususally spoil my enjoyment of it.

It is challenging though, to try and write one that isn't obviousm without making it completely obscure!

Jumbly Girl said...

Oh forgot to say I've tagged you for a little meme over at mine

Bernadette said...

Don't forget that these are writers reading your story. I can guess the end or the twist in the majority of the stories I read - because I can see the set-ups I use myself: the androgynous names, the he/she bits so you can't tell who is who etc etc. And because I'm looking for them rather than just reading the story for enjoyment.
It doesn't mean that your average reader would spot the twist and, even if they do, as Karen says, it doesn't necessarily spoil the story anyway.

Leigh said...

I always try to guess the twist - feeling more or less smug depending on how close I get to the end before I work it out. Two recent TaB stories have really made me laugh (Della's woman on her way to the church one, and Maddie's camping one) because in both cases I thought I'd cracked it, then (in the last line) found I'd been going completely the wrong way! It is hard, but as Bernadette says, I'm not sure the average reader pays that much attention! Good luck with the sub!

Yvonne said...

I'm also finding it very difficult to guess whether the twist in my stories are obvious or not - or just downright implausable - sounds like the critique is the best way to go, especially as you were able to incorporate it into the story!

L-Plate Author said...

Well I've never been able to write one let alone sell one, so you're way ahead of me there!

Well done on the word count too! x

Tam said...

I've always thought a good twist is hard to do but if anyone can crack it, you can!

HelenMH said...

I've just finished the one I started on Della's course (Leigh very kindly looked at it for me) I'm just sitting on it a bit for a final edit before I send it off. Good luck with yours.

Sher said...

I hear you on the money for old rope stuff. I have yet to place one of my short stories and I always have people advising me to send them to woman's magazines because it's easy to be published there. GRRRRR

Bernadette said...

Sher, in a recent interview the fiction editor of Best said that she gets 70 to 100 subs per week and they publish ONE! The other women's mags are similar, or worse. Tell that to your friends and then suggest they have a go - see how easy they find it!

Quillers said...

I wouldn't worry if people guessed, Cally. Most magazines give the guidelines that readers don't want to be fooled, and like to be able to look back and see where the clues were.

And hear hear on trying to write for womags to see how easy it is. One writer I know of insisted several years ago that it was easy and wrote 6 of what he called 'womag type' stories. He failed to place 5 of them and the 6th he sold for £15 to a website that isn't anywhere near to being a womag. And he had to pay £10 to join the site ...

Lena said...

First time to your blog and really like wht I got to read here, hope you have nothing against intruders.
And it really changes your perception of the story if you are looking for the twist intentionally, but then it does not spoil the enjoyment of reading, right? :)

womagwriter said...

You're right, Cal, twists are blinking hard to write. Good luck with the sub!