Posts Tagged ‘plot twists’

So it’s been about a week since Rose was released, and a few days since the paperback was uploaded onto Amazon (though those pages still aren’t linked for some strange reason. Jeez Amazon, what are you waiting for? A kindergartener to play a matching game?). And while I can’t be certain of how well it’s been doing, I can say the responses I’ve gotten so far have been overwhelmingly positive.

A lot of people have, of course, praised the cover. Not surprising, given the work of The Gilded Quill, the cover’s designer. It’s actually been quite the lure, if some of the comments I’ve gotten are anything to go by, as has been the excerpt I’ve been leaving on various sites. And according to Goodreads (a site I don’t use, but which I may have to start using), a lot of people are either reading it now or are going to read it. I’ve also heard from some friends and family and a few of my advanced readers, and those who have started the book say they’re enjoying and find it intriguing.

But biggest indicator of all is that Rose already has a few reviews! Yep, that’s right, we have reviews. Two on Amazon (one of which is also on Goodreads) and one on the website of a colleague of mine.

The first review came from one of my advanced readers, and someone who you may have seen in the comments sections of these posts. Priscilla Bettis gave Rose 4.5 stars (though Amazon doesn’t allow half-stars, so she gave it a 4) and had this to say:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

Tension and twisty. High praise. As for the feminist tone, yeah, guilty as charged, but given some of the news stories out there, I felt like adding that overtone was necessary.

The other review came from Kimberly Napolitano, aka kimnappi, who said this in her 4-star review:

Rose is a wholly original story that has about everything horror and fantasy involved that it will satisfy every reader.

Rose wakes up in an unfamiliar home with her memory erased all of the past two years.. she’s in a panic because something is happening to her…

No spoilers, actually anything beyond that point would ruin the story for you. The action was fast, scare jumps perfect and plot twist? Absolutely! So if you love supernatural to creature feature. You got it all here! Enjoy!

Apparently that plot twist is popular. Good to know. I promise to not be M. Night Shyamalan and overdo plot twists in future books or insert stupid ones for no good reason.

As for KG Finfrock’s review, I won’t post it here but instead give you the link to check it out so you can check it out yourself. Just know, it’s very positive and I’m glad she enjoyed the book so much.

If any of this has convinced you to check out Rose, the links below lead to its Amazon pages. And if you do read it, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve a previous engagement to get to. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Paperback Link

E-book Link

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I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately, and something in the most recent episode I watched got me thinking. It was stated at the beginning of the season that the main villain of the season, the demon Lilith, is breaking magical seals to raise the demon Lucifer out of Hell, and she needs to destroy sixty-six seals to do so. Based on that, I thought there were sixty-six seals in total, which seemed reasonable. According to the episode I watched yesterday though, there are over six-hundred possible seals, and Lilith needs to only destroy sixty-six to get Lucifer out of Hell.

Now I’ll admit that I’m still working my way through the season, so there may be more to these seals than what I know right now, but based on just the description I have above, that’s a pretty poor security system. You’re keeping the ultimate evil bound by six-hundred seals, but only sixty-six need to be destroyed to let him out? That’s like only needing an eleven percent passing score on a lie detector test to get access to Top Secret national security files. You’re just acting for trouble.

With that in mind, as well as my thoughts on the movie The Boy that I reviewed earlier this week,* I got to thinking. Sometimes creators do things in fiction that make absolutely no sense when the fans get to them. Obviously, there are things in fiction that are most likely impossible–the magic of Harry Potter, actual giant lizards like Godzilla, TARDISes and Time Lords (sadly)–but we forget that so we can enjoy the story. This is called suspension of belief, and it’s how we can enjoy these stories. However sometimes a creator–whether it’s a book, a movie, a comic, or a TV show–is just too hard for us to believe. When that happens, the story, and our enjoyment of the story, suffers horribly.

With that in mind, here are some things every storyteller can do to make it easier to tell a story without dong something that will make a reader/viewer say, “What the hell? That’s so stupid!”

  • Avoid the unnecessary or stupid twists. Back to The Boy again, which, if you haven’t read my review, singled out the twist that the boy Brahms was alive and a full adult as the movie’s biggest fault. I get that they were trying to distinguish the movie from others like it with a unique twist, but besides feeling kind of lame, the twist made the whole concept of the movie nonsensical (see my review for full details on that). If you plan to include a twist in your work, ask yourself a few questions before you use one, such as: is this twist necessary to make a good story? Is it predictable? Does it make the story seem silly or even make the events of the story make no sense? I’m convinced if the filmmakers of The Boy had asked these questions, they might have had a better movie on their hands.
  • What brought people to your work in the first place? I love bashing 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, because it is such a terrible film. In fact, the filmmakers even seemed to think that the movie was crap, or that they were unable to really make a great Friday the 13th film, so they packed in as much swearing, sex and nudity, drugs, alcohol, and raunchy or childish humor as possible. The result was a film that felt like it was trying to be one of those dirty teen camping trip comedies that had to remind itself every few minutes it was about a serial killer living on a lake.
    If you’re going to tell a certain type of story, keep in mind at every step what sort of story it is and don’t focus unnecessarily on elements that are only a small part of the story or even unnecessary. In the case of Friday the 13th, people watch those movies to see Jason go on a rampage. The sex and drugs and all that other stuff are just added bonuses as well as what causes Jason to target his victims, not why we pay nine dollars at the box office. And the fact that the filmmakers felt those elements were more important is why I’ll always enjoy bashing this piece of crap out of Michael Bay’s bum.
  • Could this happen in the real world? I have a lot of problems with the Hunger Games books.** One of my biggest problems is how the series ends: Katniss finds out President Coin ordered the bombing that killed her sister, so she kills Coin in revenge as Coin takes control of the nation. The new government of Panem hushes up Coin’s treachery to preserve the new order, so for all intents and purposes Katniss just assassinated the new President unprovoked. And Katniss…is portrayed as a girl gone mad with grief over the loss of her sister, she gets exiled to District 12 with weekly phone conferences with a shrink, and lives happily ever after?
    I don’t care if you’re the face of a movement, if a similar revolution occurred in America, and the face of that revolution killed the new leader, you bet that person would at least get locked up in a prison or psych ward so they couldn’t tell anyone what they’d done. Exile and getting to raise a family? Nothing bad happens to her? I don’t care if she has nightmares a lot and never tells us her kids’ names because she’s afraid of losing them, that still would never happen in real life!
    So when you’re telling your own story, ask yourself if a situation is so unbelievable, even in the wackiest of fiction, that people can’t suspend their disbelief anymore. If it is, you might want to consider tweaking it so that guys like me don’t go on a rant about it on the Internet.
  • If it needs a lengthy explanation for why it happens, you might want to rethink the why. This one comes from personal experience. When I was writing Reborn City, I had this really complicated reason as to why my protagonist Zahara Bakur had to join the Hydras. That, and another situation later in the book had really complicated reasons why those things had to happen. It wasn’t until later drafts that I realized how overly complicated those situations were and found simpler explanations for why Zahara had to join the Hydras or the other thing had to happen, explanations that were so simple but worked so perfectly I wondered why I tried to use the run-around logic that a smart reader could easily poke a hole in.
    So if you want a specific event in your story to happen for the sake of the story but the way you get it to happen is really overly-complicated, requires a lot of explanation, and from certain angles makes no sense, perhaps you should reconsider either the event or why it happens. It beats having two unnecessary pages of dialogue explaining why something needs to happen when a much simpler explanation is at hand, at any rate.
  • And finally, don’t forget what is obvious or necessary. This kind of fits into my third point, but I’m making it separate because I feel that’s the best way to present it. Anyway, in one of my fiction workshops in college, a classmate turned in a story that took place in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was a good first draft, but a major problem I had was that the protagonist apparently forgot his bow and arrow at home. I said to her, “This is a world where people dumb enough to leave their weapons at home while on a trip are likely to get killed a hundred different ways. No seasoned hunter like this guy forgets his source of food and protection.” In the same way, make sure that you avoid moves like that, where a character does something that makes no sense for someone in their position or the setting has some part of it that also makes little sense when you think about it. Trust me, it will improve the story if you avoid those problems.

In the end, the thing you want to tell is a good story. Avoiding anything that strains the credulity of your audience can be very difficult, but with trial and effort, you can get very good at it. This is also why I recommend having your stories looked at by editors or beta readers who won’t spare good advice because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings or risking your friendship. They can help you avoid these traps and improve the overall product of the story.

What tricks do you have for avoiding situations that strain the credulity of your audience?

What are some stories where they did something that really took you out of the story?

*By the way, it’s been nearly a week since I published that post, but an average of 36 people a day have been checking that post out since. I guess I’m not the only one who found that twist completely stupid.

**Especially the trilogy’s very backstory. A nation in the far-flung future had a massive civil war, and the Capitol decided that to stop future rebellions, the entire country should revolve politically, economically, and socially around an annual death game involving youth from the Districts? If Panem can genetically engineer scary monsters, they can synthesize a drug that takes out aggression and dump it into the Districts’ water supply. Problem solved, and all those seventeen-hundred and twenty people who died for the Capitol’s perverse pleasure instead grow up to be contributors to society. Yes, that is diabolical and I know I’d make a great dictator. My mother informed me of this fact when I pointed out this problem with the books.

Ooh boy, 2016 is already sucking in terms of horror films. And what made this film so bad? Well, I’m about to go into full SPOILERS to tell you why. I know, I know, I usually try to avoid spoilers at all costs, but in order to tell you how this film screwed up royally, I will have to spoil the film’s very big twist. So be warned, if you still plan to see this film and want to form your own opinions, you might want to stop reading this review.

Still here? Alright, let’s go into the setup. The Boy is about Greta Evans, an American running from an abusive ex, comes to England to be the nanny to an elderly couple’s son Brahms. Thing is, Brahms is a doll, the real Brahms dying in a fire over twenty years before. After the parents leave for a holiday, Greta starts thinking that the doll might actually be alive, inhabited by the soul of the psychopathic child who used to live in the house.

Sounds pretty typical, right? Well they try to switch it up in the last twenty minutes. How? Well, here’s where I get spoiler-y: after Greta’s ex arrives and destroys the supposedly-alive doll, it’s actually revealed that the doll…was just a doll. Brahms, who supposedly died over twenty years ago, is actually alive, a full-grown adult who still kind-of thinks he’s a child but has adult desires, and has been living in the house’s walls and in a hidden attic for the past twenty-something years.

WHAT THE FUCK?!!!

Pardon my French, but come on! I get wanting to defy expectations, but the way it’s done here is not only a little lame, but it totally makes no sense. You’re telling me that Brahms survived the fire over twenty years ago, and that he hid in the walls, made his parents, who are apparently aware their son’s alive and in the walls and maybe holding them hostage but allows his dad to have too many drinks with the local grocery store owner, and then also made them play parents to a doll with a remarkable resemblance to him, for over twenty years? Okay, that stretches credulity. First off, the kid doesn’t mature beyond eight years old mentally, surely he’s not clever enough to come up with such an elaborate plan to hold his parents hostage! And if the parents were aware of Brahms being alive, then it argues against Brahms coming across his parents with the doll and taking advantage of the situation.

Honestly, there are two ways this film could’ve actually improved itself: the first, and most obvious, is that the filmmakers could’ve stuck to the supernatural line and focused a bit more on the weird, motherly relationship between Greta and the doll. The other would’ve taken the story and focused on the parents during those first couple years after the fire, when they became aware of their son being alive and what he’s doing to them. That would’ve been an interesting story! Parents who love their son, but at the same time are terrified of him. The conflict would’ve been amazing, the thrill would’ve been powerful. And heck, if they wanted to include the doll in this version, they could’ve found an angle that would’ve worked easily. Especially if they wanted to portray the kid as not stuck mentally, but instead a growing psychopath to rival Hannibal Lecter.

Other than the twist that ruins the movie, the only other problem that I have with the film is that they could’ve touched upon the weird mother-son relationship between Greta and Brahms the doll a whole lot more. That would’ve made the movie much more emotionally powerful, but unfortunately the film only explores it only a little. Other than those two criticisms though, The Boy was pretty decent. The characters are somewhat fun, the actors who play them are great, and the set is decent for a creepy movie. Heck, they even build a really creepy atmosphere punctuated with jump scares. I was afraid at times, and for a little while I really thought the film entertaining, if not downright terrifying.

It’s just that twist. Even if it didn’t make absolutely no sense, it’s so lame it ruins the entire film. Which is why I’m giving The Boy a 2.8 out of 5. Great atmosphere and characters, a promising premise, but I’d only recommend this film if you want to see how a horror film can totally ruin itself by trying to defy expectations, and doing it in the worst way possible.