Thinking up Twist Endings

Yesterday, I talked about twist endings. But theory doesn’t help me much. How do you come up with such things?

How To Think Up Twist Endings

I went back to my trusty brainstorming book,Thinkertoys Thinkertoys : A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques (2nd Edition). It’s written for business purposes, so all the examples have to do with setting up a business, selling things, etc. But the techniques are clearly explained and I use it for help in brainstorming.

  • Two Good Endings. I despaired at first of thinking of two good endings that were plausible, believable, yet unexpected. The Cherry Split (pp. 60-65) exercise seemed perfect for this. It asked you to separate your challenge into two separate units. For example, I was thinking of a fast runner. I split it into “fast” and “runner,” and then tried to think of as many attributes for each as I could. (Actually, I called my daughter who ran cross country in high school and got her input–help is good.)If you’re a runner, she said, you like to read running biographies. I realized that in my story, there was a certain bio attached to my runner. But what if that was a lie–instead of losing races, she had won races, but no one knew that until the end. What emotional twist would that give?
  • Unreliable narrator. Help is, indeed, good. For this one, I got help from the CIA. CIA agents rely on Phoenix (pp. 137-143), a set of questions that force you to question your basic assumptions about your problem. Sample questions: Why is it necessary to solve the problem? What is the unknown? What is NOT the problem? What is the information you have?
    It goes on from there for a couple pages. I didn’t have to go far before I found some answers that I needed.
  • Murphy’s Law. Some muscle was needed here, for me. The Brutethink exercise (pp. 157-163) suggests that you put together random things and somehow make it work. It was the only exercise that worked for me to make things continually go wrong.
  • Unspoken Expectations. Well, I quoted the Sweet Violets song yesterday as an example of using expectations. And none of Thinkertoys exercises helped here. It seems like it’s more of a language play thing in the song. And I couldn’t break out of that. Any suggestions on how to brainstorm this one?

Overall, brainstorming techniques–a wide variety of them–help me when I’m trying to think of Twist Endings.

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