Twist that Ending and Twist it Again

The Art to Twisting an Ending

by Deborah Owen

We all know a surprise ending when we see one, but how do you write it? Read on to find out.

Wikipedia defines a twisted ending as an unexpected conclusion or climax to a work of fiction, which may contain a surprising irony, or cause the audience to review the story from a different perspective by revealing new information about the characters or plot.

In other words, a twisted ending is the conclusive form of plot twists. This literary device is also referred to as a surprise ending.

Alfred Hitchcock was the first master of twisted endings in film. In only 30 minutes, he could develop a plot and mislead the viewer. His technique was something akin to the game of “Clue,” allowing the viewers to draw their own faulty conclusions. This type of twisted ending is called a “red herring.”

In the movie Moby Dick, Captain Ahab spends his life searching for the white whale that bit his leg off. The twist comes when Ahab becomes ensnared in ropes attached to the great white and the whale drags him to his drowning death.

Examples: Let’s suppose a man has murdered a woman and her husband is out to catch the killer. Just as hubby catches the murderer, the police arrive and take the man into custody. How can you twist that ending? There are many ways and none are right or wrong. You have literary license to do as you please, but do follow one rule: satisfy your reader. Here are a few ideas:

1. The husband’s vendetta is to see the killer die, but when the murderer goes to trial, he begs for the death penalty. Now the husband wants him to live a miserable life in prison.

2. Suppose the killer became a Christian and begged the husband to forgive him? Think how that would change the parameters of this case.

3. Suppose the murderer was sentenced to life without parole? The husband of the dead woman is delighted with the verdict, but an inmate kills the murderer on the first day in prison. Oops.

4. Or… the killer could escape from the courtroom, dash into the street and be hit by a semi.

5. The judge sentences the man to death. The dead woman’s husband is happy, but his grief drives him to his knees and he becomes a Christian. He changes his mind about wanting the killer to die and instead, leads a campaign for a stay of execution.

The best ending is when you twist the ending, and then twist it again. For example, let’s make this murderer a really evil man. In prison, he killed two people but wasn’t caught in the act. Eventually, he gets paroled and is promptly hit by a car. The reader thinks justice has been served… but the man doesn’t die. He’s paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life.

The secret to twisting an ending is finding the point where you can veer off to an alternative resolution. Exactly what you do with it from that point is up to you.

Your turn. Think of a scene and how you can twist the ending and share it with us.

And don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and check out our privately tutored writing courses. Sign up for monthly writing tips at http://www.cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Basic Story Structure

Story Structure 101

by Deborah Owen

All creative writers are bound to an invisible law of journalism. From the beginning of time, the same structure has been used. All of the great writers use it. But after this lesson, you will see that story structure is far more than the initial breakdown:

  • Exposition – the beginning, what the story is about
  • Conflict –  man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, man vs. internal conflict
  • Climax – releases the main plot
  • Resolution – resolve all situations

If you google “story structure,” you will find many variations. You might find plot, conflict, conclusion – or theme, climax, and conclusion. No matter how you word it, the basic answer is the same. Without any one of these elements, the story will flounder.

But you must expound on the following things, no matter what kind of story you are writing:

  • Point of View (POV)
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Setting
  • Characterization
  • Dialogue
  • Action
  • Writing style
  • Genre

If you want to transfer your reader from their sofa or chair to the scene in your mind, you must use settings. This can be anything from an open window with a curtain blowing in the breeze to a murder scene in progress. The best idea is to open midway through an action scene. This will grab your audience quicker and keep them longer, as they read to find the outcome.

There is a difference between plot and theme. Plot is the event (or series of events) that occurs in the story. Plot is the central heart of what the story is about. Theme, on the other hand, is the underlying motivation that drives the story.

The open window with the curtains blowing in the breeze is part of a setting, which in turn is part of the larger picture, the plot. Every time there is an event in the story, you must ask yourself these questions: “Why is the window open? How did the window get opened? Obviously, someone opened it. But why?” These questions move you into the theme of the story. Always ask yourself, who, what, when, where, why and how. The answer to these questions is the theme that drives the story, the underlying motivation of the story – if you will, the reason why the story is there.

Point of view is how the reader sees the story. If you tell it in first person point of view (I went to the store…), the reader will see the story through your eyes. If you tell it in third person point of view, (he went to the store…), the reader will see the story through the character’s eyes. New writers usually like to write in first person, but the majority of editors are now mostly buying third person. This new trend makes a huge difference in choosing your POV.

A few brief words on some of the above: Characterization – make your characters real to the reader by concentrating on descriptions, attitudes, failures, and quirks. Dialogue – it’s okay to use accents, but preferably not on the main character. And for settings – use anything that describes where a person is, or will be in conjunction to plot or theme.

What problems do you have in story structure? Let us know in the comments below! For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice newsletter at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com!

What is Speculative Fiction?

An Awesome New Look at Traditional Fiction

by Victoria Pakizer

Speculative fiction contains every awesome genre of entertainment available. It is fantasy, horror, science fiction, different realities, alternative history, superhero fiction, utopias (a wonderful society), dystopias (a terrible society), steampunk (updates of Victorian era), cuberpunk (where virtual reality and true reality are difficult to separate), magical realism, fairy tales, etc. or a mixture of any of the above. The easiest way to summarize speculative fiction is: any story that takes place in a reality that is different from our own.

These movies, shows, and books are examples of speculative fiction: The Matrix, Dawn of the Dead, Dollhouse, Clockwork Angel, Smallville, The Sixth Sense, Brave New World, Shiver, and The Lord of the Rings.

One major component of speculative fiction is science fiction. If you read a story about aliens, alternative universes, advanced technologies, futuristic settings, time travel, or something similar, you’re reading a science fiction novel. Science fiction deals with the more plausible side of make-believe. As the saying goes, science fiction may not be fiction forever. Examples of this are Star Trek, Back to the Future, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Firefly.

Another genre included in speculative fiction is paranormal/horror. This genre is stuffed with creatures you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, such as ghosts, vampires, serial killers, demons, and zombies. When people think of horror, they usually think about a group of teenagers with an IQ below 30 getting lost in the woods, chased by a cannibalistic family, and death scenes that involve blood, guts, and gore. While that certainly counts as horror/paranormal, so do stories that involve werewolves, such as Teen Wolf, or ghosts like Hamlet. Other examples of horror/supernatural are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dracula, and Silent Hill.

Speculative fiction also includes fantasy. Some elements of fantasy are dragons, wizards, elves, King Arthur, and Zeus. Fantasy usually has a “medieval” feel to it and may envelop myths and legends, but “urban fantasy” can take place in a realistic setting like New York City. A Song of Fire and Ice, Merlin, and Enchanted are all examples of fantasy.

So, if we have science fiction, horror, and fantasy as separate genres, why do we need speculative fiction? We need it for TV shows like Supernatural, a story about two brothers who hunt monsters. We assume the show is mostly horror/paranormal, but it features demons who create alternative dimensions, angels who travel through time, and ghosts who cause fairy tales to come to life.

Supernatural has horror creatures comprising both science fiction and fantasy elements, and that’s where speculative fiction enters. Whenever a work involves more than one genre, you can call it speculative fiction.

There’s an unspoken rule in creative writing that states don’t mix genres. For example, if you’re writing a science fiction novel, it’s best to stay away from fantasy elements. It could be jarring if, in the middle of Star Wars, Lancelot showed up riding a dragon to save the day, but we’re finding more and more authors who are smudging the dividing line between genres.

The TV show Angel features a vampire who travels to alternative dimensions on occasion. Thor is a stereotypical superhero movie that relies heavily on Norse mythology. Mixing genres can result in magic.

Authors who don’t understand speculative fiction may find themselves stuck in a box, afraid to let Athena fight zombies, but speculative fiction says – why not?

If you’re a good enough writer, you can write about aliens meeting King Arthur. Writers are trained not to break the rules, but with the genre of speculative fiction, feel free to do so. This genre opens countless creative options! Good luck and have fun breaking the rules.

Have any crazy ideas for Speculative Fiction? Let us know in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to go to the www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out more about our creative writing courses!

Did You Break Your New Year’s Resolutions?

Getting Inspired Again

by Deborah Owen

How to Get your Motivation Back

Have you already broken your New Year’s Resolution to write more? Did you want to take a writing class this year? Write more often? Finish that story? Try poetry? Breaking resolutions is only natural, but you mustn’t allow this to leave you feeling discouraged, demoralized and demotivated.

Life is busy, and it waits for no one. Don’t be cross with yourself for “failing”. No one really fails. They are just procrastinating; always thinking tomorrow will be different. It happens with diets. It happens with smoking. It happens with writing too. The main thing is to pick yourself up now and start over again. And should you fail in this effort as well, begin again another day. As long as you have new days, you have the opportunity to succeed.

Refocusing on your Writing

Daily resolutions are the only kind of resolutions that really accomplish anything, so now is the time to make your daily resolve. Here are a few ideas to help you refocus:

  • Break your writing time into small chunks that you can work into every day. Fifteen minutes is a good start. That gives you five minutes to clear your mind and ten minutes to get into the groove. You’d be surprised what you can write in fifteen minutes. True story: An unpublished woman wrote and finished a book by writing fifteen minutes a day on her lunch hour. She sent it to an editor. He bought it, and she got it published. Writers, you make your own limitations, and you make your own chances in life. Get going!

Did you break your New Year’s resolutions?

  • If you don’t find inspiration when you sit down to write, don’t worry! You can write about your work, your boss, a rude clerk in the store, a nice person you met, your mate, how you want to remodel the house, or about your dreams. What matters is that you string your words together in proper English, demonstrating proper punctuation, and good thought patterns. Remember: everything you write has meaning. It shows your attitude, your interest, your opinion, your intentions, your psychological status, and it develops your writing talents.
  • Write at the same time every day, if at all possible. That is the key to wanting to write. If you write at the same time every day for a week, you’ll begin to feel the “muse” – the urge to write. When you resist that urge because you choose to do something else, the muse will be diminished the next day. Put writing at the top of your priorities.

If you haven’t met the muse, you’ll know it when it hits you. It will be hard to type as fast as your mind can deliver the content. You won’t want to stop. You won’t want to be disturbed. You won’t want to do anything but write… that is the muse. Cherish it. Love it. Obey it when it calls. The muse is to a writer what a car is to a driver. It’s your vehicle to transport you from this world into the one you create.

So, what were your writing-related New Years resolutions? Share them with us in the comments below! And after that, be sure to check out www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and sign up for an affordable 8-week writing course!

How to Write Dialogue Tags

Advice for Setting Up Meaningful Story Dialogue

by Deborah Owen

Dialogue tags are the short insertions that identify the speakers in a written conversation. Without them, the reader would be lost.

Dialogue tags are quick signposts that keep the reader on the right path. When you change paths to another speaker, it is not always necessary to place a tag. Sometimes you can use characters’ speech patterns and the natural flow of conversation to identify a change in speakers.

Modern style dictates that all dialogue tags identify the speaker first, and then the action. In other words you should write, “Jason said” rather than “said Jason”. If you are selling your work, little things like this show you are up on the latest writing trends.

Don’t use tags such as, “Jack said mysteriously,” or “Crystal said wryly.” Avoid the use of adverbs that end in –ly. Stick to the same ole, same ole, mundane, “Jack said.” The reader’s subconscious mind will pass over this without realizing they have read it.

Readers expect to see tags. They flow with the story and don’t distract from the action.

When you introduce conversations into your stories, narration and exposition will become dialogue. And with that change will come an exchange of emotion, pace, conflict, and the actions of the characters as they progress through the theme.

Challenge yourself to give life and energy to speech. If you want to know what natural dialogue sounds like, quit talking and listen. Eavesdropping will become your best friend. Eavesdrop everywhere you go. Restaurant talk is fabulous. That is conversation at its best!

Can you hear what your character would say in your mind? If you can’t, you don’t know them well enough. Make a list of 50 things about your character, and you will know him/her inside out. When you can hear them speaking in your mind and can view them as real people, it will be easier to hear their normal conversation.

Always address the following questions:

  • Does the dialogue reflect the speech of real people?
  • Does it bring the reader into the emotion of the scene?
  • Does it flow naturally?

The most common failing of authors is to write meaningless, or too much dialogue. The reader’s mind requires frequent rests to absorb the action and for that reason, you need to break the dialogue into groups and sprinkle short scenes of settings throughout. You can do this with just about anything.

Avoid conversations that are one or two-liners, like this:

“How are you?” Jane asked.

“I’m doing good,” Jack said.

“So, what’s new?”

“Not much.”

This kind of conversation is boring and has no purpose. Dialogue should provide backstory, add to the character, reveal a clue, further the plot, or introduce new material. If your dialogue is there just to make conversation, edit it into something useful.

What is your favorite way to use dialogue? Let us know in the comments below!

Stop in for a visit at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com and find even more writing tips in our newsletter, The Writer’s Choice.

Tips and Tricks to Writing Emotions

Are Emotions Absent in your Scenes? If they aren’t, don’t look now, but you just lost your readers.

by Deborah Owen

There are tips and tricks to writing emotions. As a creative writer, you must feel the mood you’re writing. This is imperative if you want to reach your audience. How can you do that? By experiencing the mood.

Let’s suppose you want to write a scene that displays anger. Maybe the story is about abuse, a mom and dad arguing, or sibling rivalry. Maybe it’s about a girl breaking up with her boyfriend because he was cheating on her. If the scene is intense, you have to get into the mood. I mean red, piping hot angry.

Remember the guy or gal that dumped you 30 years ago? Remember the time you had a bad dream about your pal and you wouldn’t speak to him/her all day? How about when you got steamed at the boss, or got into a heated argument over politics, world affairs, abortion, women’s rights, etc.? As a writer, you must recapture those emotions and write them into your scenes. It should be so real that you attend anger management classes to get over it.

Do you need to be happy? Then think of some happy occasions. Sing a crazy song as loud as you can. Laugh like an idiot! When you begin laughing at yourself, it’s time to write that joy into your scene.

Another way to develop absent emotions is to imagine yourself as the character and write entries in a diary from his/her point of view. Live the make-believe life. Do whatever it takes to crawl into your character’s skin. You can’t write effectively what you don’t know or aren’t in the mood for. (You can, however, write a draft for the scene and come back to build it in a more realistic way later.)

Remember that your protagonist (main character, hero) and antagonist (villain) must be three-dimensional characters. They must have a past and a future; they must have problems in their lives and they must work through those issues like real, live people. Your characters should be real enough to walk off the page and sit next to the reader. If your reader can’t identify with the characters, he or she will probably not continue reading.

When my daughter was 16 years old, it was not uncommon for her to sit cross-legged on the floor and bawl her eyes out over a dramatic TV show. One night I winked at my husband and said, “That actress is playing her part really well, isn’t she?” He picked up on it and we talked back and forth about the actress’ career and wondered out loud what movie she would be in next – although she just died in that scene.

Our daughter turned around, tears dripping off her cheeks, and said, “Quit it, you guys. You’re ruining the show!” But what she really meant was, “I’m into the character. I feel what she is feeling. Don’t move me out of the scene.”

If your characters aren’t three-dimensional, (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) you’ll lose your readers. Put yourself into the mood and into the groove. Live what you write.

How do you best write emotions? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses!

You can find me online at http://www.deborahowen.wordpress or deborahowen on Twitter. Don’t forget to “like” us before you leave! Click on the title to leave a comment. Thank you!

Writing Fantasy

Fantasy Writing Tips

By Deborah Owen

Have you ever wanted to write fantasy but didn’t know where to begin? Then this is the article for you. By the time you finish reading, you will be able to write your first fantasy story.

Writing fantasy is the art of turning an impractical idea into a reality in the reader’s mind. It’s using your imagination to find its deepest creative power. It’s the ability to visualize things and places you have never seen. What a vast and exciting realm that opens!

Begin by freeing your mind of everything that is real and tangible. Escape this world of gravity and float beyond the ties of places and time. What do you see? Purple beings with six snouts and wings? A planet completely engulfed in water with underworld cities? An atmosphere where the inhabitants breathe gas and explode when they reach maturity? Fantasy is the place of no bounds, no limits – the place where anything is possible.

When you get your first vision of a new world or new life, go to the next step. What characters are in this world? What problems do they encounter? How will they solve these problems?

Remember that your characters must be three-dimensional. You must have a physical description in mind. How do they typically act? What is out of the ordinary for them?

How do they communicate? How do they move from place to place? Do they fly? Slither? Swim? Waddle? Can they function on their own, or are they dependent on something else for life? Are your characters supposed to be royalty? Are they prisoners? Are they heading up a revolution? How intelligent are they? Do you want to involve some kind of magic? Is it a story of good versus evil? You must know all of this and more before you can advance the plot.

Take the time to write down fifty things about each of the main characters and the world they live in. What do the inhabitants eat? What things are unacceptable in their world? What is their vocation?

Now decide what the overall story is about – not just the middle conflict scene. The middle climactic scene is called the plot. The meaning in the overall story is the theme, so what will your theme be? Slithering lizards battling dinosaurs over human prey? Colliding worlds that give birth to a new planet?

When you have answered all of these questions, begin writing the middle conflict scene of the story. Next, write the ending. (You don’t need to connect them yet.) By that time you will know what needs to be in the beginning of the story to complete it. Develop that last. And finally, connect the three parts.

This is called the DeBowen writing system and it’s very easy. If you write your story in this order, everything will fall into place naturally, and that which you have imagined will become a reality.

So, have you come up with any cool fantasy ideas after reading this article? Did this help at all? Let us know in the comments below! Also, if you’d like more great tips and guidance with much greater depth, don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses–they’re priced quite competitively!

Should You Write for Free?

Is Free Writing Worth It in the End?

by Deborah Owen

Writing for Free Leads to Money

I can almost hear you say, “You want me to write free of charge? Are you nuts?” Bear with me. There’s a method to my madness. Write for free, so you can get paid.

This is a controversial subject, but the fact is, this is how most writers get their start. If it will help you break into the writing market, why wouldn’t you?

Question

Why do you want to be published? To fill a void in your life? To teach others from your experience? To leave your mark on the earth? There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. You have important things to say—so say them, but first you have to break into the market so people can read your articles/stories.

An editor’s first question will be, “Where have you been published?” And you should have a list as long as your arm. So where do you get that experience? We’re back to writing for free.

Where to Begin

  • Write for ezines that pay in subscriptions (some will pay $5)
  • Write for your church bulletin
  • Write for newsletters at work
  • Volunteer work for a nonprofit charity
  • Ask your local newspaper if they need someone to cover sports and/or political     meetings. (These are hard jobs to fill, and almost every paper has such a position.)
  • Write an article on odd things you see in the community, and sell them to the local paper. (Always take a picture. You’ll get $10 for the article and $5 more for  a pic.)
  • Write for Associated Content or eHow

As your articles are printed, be sure to clip, date, and save them in a photo album. These are called “clippings”. (If you take writing courses and receive a Certificate of Completion, you may want to keep them in the same album.)

When you move up the ladder, editors will ask to see samples of your work. That’s when you copy your clippings and send them for inspection. When sending your first piece to a magazine don’t say, “My teacher liked this piece,” or “I’ve never been published before, but I work hard,” or “I belong to a writer’s club and this article was voted best of the month.” These are amateur remarks and editors will recognize them as such.

You may be asking, “But when I send clippings from bulletins, newsletters, and charities, won’t the editor know I’ve been writing for little or nothing?” Yes they will, but they won’t care. They’ll know you were learning the market, and you must have some talent or no one would’ve published your work.

If you don’t have publication credits, avoid the subject altogether, but send a short cover letter with your submission. Give a very short story on how you started writing and what your goals are. Don’t forget to thank the editor for his or her time.

In Conclusion

  • Writing for free is a great way to establish credentials
  • Keep dated clippings in a photo album
  • Present yourself professionally

You make your own chances in this business, and writing for free is part of the learning curve. What about you? Have you tried writing for free? Did you find it profitable? Click on the title to leave a comment, and don’t forget to “like” us! Thanks.

Go to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to get a personal tutor in your writing course. How many schools offer that?