Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cockeyed Caravan: Storyteller’s Rulebook #19: Every Twist Has to Explain Everything

How to write a twist:
Paris society wife Audrey Hepburn finds that her lousy husband has been murdered, and now four of his co-conspirators are after her, convinced that she has the money they all stole together. She meets handsome Cary Grant who offers to help, but he, too, is not what he seems. This movie shows how to do twists right. Each time Grant is caught in a lie, he drops a major twist which completely re-sets our perspective. He even gets a new name each time, so he goes through four completely different identities over the course of the movie, and he switches back and forth from hero to villain more times than that.

But here’s the remarkable thing: Each new explanation changes everything we thought we knew, but each one is still a reasonable explanation for everything we’ve seen since the beginning of the movie. There’s nothing worse than the twist that seems satisfying, until we think back to earlier in the movie and say “Wait, then why would he have done that??”