Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doyle Twists and Vital Clues

Well, I feel kind of disappointed in myself. I started this blog to help with my writer’s block, and

yet I’ve been using it to document my personal life. I feel like one of the thousands of people who go online and post something completely uninteresting but still hoping that people will like it. Heh, I’ve probably even scared off a few people, come to think of it. I’ll try to keep on the topic of writing from now on, unless something life-changing occurs and it means I’m going to be away for a while.

Or if it corresponds to writing somehow.

Anywho, I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I would discuss something I called the Doyle Twist. It probably has another name, but I can’t be bothered to look that up right now. It’s supposed to be a twist ending where the main character figures out the twist before the reader based on information that wasn’t given in the rest of the narrative. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, does this a lot in many of his stories (or at least the ones I’ve read), and it made me tear my hair out in frustration. You can mislead the reader, sure, but if you don’t give them all of the information then you just look like a jackass.

I don’t know, maybe Doyle did it on purpose so that Holmes could seem very intelligent. But if he had added in a few details that led to the twist, I guarantee people would figure out the twist before the end.

If you’re still unsure as to what I mean, I’ll give you an example.

So, let’s say Sherlock Holmes starts investigating the murder of this wealthy land owner. All signs seem to point to the butler because he hated his boss, he was getting ready to move out, and he knew how to use a gun. So, what we have here is a motive, a getaway plan, and the training required to handle a weapon. Seems like an open-and-shut case, right?

But then, BAM! Holmes comes in and says that it was the maid who was the murderer, not the butler!

“But detective, what evidence do you have against the maid?”

And then Holmes reveals that he had been told that the parrot the land owner kept as a pet could only speak three phrases, but when Holmes was investigating, the parrot had uttered a fourth phrase! Dun dun duuuuun!
“What was this fourth phrase, detective?!”

Well, the fourth phrase just happened to be the land owner’s exact words to the maid: “Please don’t shoot me, Charlotte! Don’t shoot me!” So, the parrot was a witness to the crime and was mimicking his master’s words! AHA!

“Oh, snap! How did we not hear that parrot? We must be bumbling police officers, after all!”

And then Sherlock Holmes lights his pipe, nods to them, and walks back to London.

Now, wouldn’t that piss you off if that had been a real story?

What I’ve learned is that a good writer leaves small hints that play into the twist. Sure, you can throw in a few red herrings because that’s natural – you want to leave the reader guessing. But giving the reader no information while at the same time misleading them? That’s a slap to the face. You’re just asking for hate mail, in that case.

Another twist that pisses me off is something I call the Vital Clue. You see this in almost every crime show nowadays. The investigators have all this evidence that points towards someone being the murderer, or the evidence changes constantly and points to several different people an episode. And then towards the end of the episode, the investigators get one vital clue that implicates to the real murderer. I’m sorry, but in the real world those investigators are going to need a whole lot more to arrest someone instead of just a partial fingerprint on a table that was in the other room of the victim’s house.

There’s probably dozens of other twists that piss me off, but those are the main two. What do you all think? Do you agree? Disagree? Also, if you have anything you want to get my opinion on, just leave a comment below and we’ll see.

I know I’ve said this before, but I really don’t expect anyone to take interest in this. Hell, I’m surprised I even have one follower at the moment (Even if they are a little crazy. I mean, they’re claiming that SLENDER MAN is stalking them. Come on, really?). If you are reading this, though, don’t be shy! I’d enjoy getting some feedback, at the very least…

Until next time, I guess…

- Arthur Pierce

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