Additionally, knowing how strong to make such twists relative to those preceding or following, provides us with a way to mount the tension and intensity of our tale — to keep the rope tight.
There is, however, a proviso: the reader or audience should never see the rope. The structure should always remain invisible if we are to avoid the accusation of formulaic writing.
One of the better ways to hide structure is through emotion. If readers are reeling at some seismic revelation resulting from a traumatic action or event, they are unlikely to detect the seam in the plot.
In Moulin Rouge, a beautiful courtesan knows she has to send the poet who loves her away in order to save his life. This action occurs towards the end of the story and is a major pivotal turn. But knowing he will not leave if she tells him the truth about the threat to his life, she pretends she does not love him and has chosen to marry the duke instead.
We are dealt a double blow – we feel the courtesan’s anguish as much as we feel the poet’s pain at this seeming betrayal by the woman he loves. The overall emotion is so strong that we hardly notice the structural seam.
In my most recent novel, The Land Below, Paulie, the hero of the story, is sentenced to die because he has broken the law of Apokatokratia. But the reader is already aware the series continues. It is therefore unlikely the hero perishes.
I had to find a way to make that pivotal twist credible if I was to avoid the accusation of predictability. Having the Troubadour, Paulie’s only friend, come forward with a startling and highly emotive revelation about his and Paulie’s past, was how I chose to hide the formula.
Judging by the reviews The Land Below has received so far, it seems as if I made the right decision.
Hide the structure of your story behind layers of emotion.
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Image: Lance Nielson