(This video can still make me cry laughing)
I am one of those people who only reads books or watches movies once. (With the exception, of course, of TV repeats such as Breakfast Club.) I hardly ever buy DVDs, and could live with only my library card – but my need for “now” and my future dream employment leads me to still buy my books. (Karma thing)
But there are a few books and movies that are specifically designed for a second reading/viewing. I’m going to focus on movies for this post, because it’s more likely that we have all seen my examples rather than books that I might mention.
Two great examples of movies designed for a second viewing are “Fight Club” and “Sixth Sense”. Movies where the ending left you screaming, “Oh. My. God” -- “No Way!” –or-- “Shut the front door!” If you are like me, you started the dang thing over to catch all the clues sprinkled throughout the movie that you couldn’t see before. Clues that were so subtle you wouldn’t have caught them, but now it’s right there like a neon sign.
All of these examples include a big flip. Big Flip = Change that switches the perceived reality of the situation. I love this style, and to be honest – it’s what I want to be when I grow up. If you’ve read my short stories, they have this in common. My manuscript, yep – you guessed it, falls right in line.
The trick is wording and subtlety. The clues must be there, but they need to be invisible and only seen when your readers go through the book the second time. As if by finishing the book, they are handing a special decoder pen that unlocks all the hidden secrets you have tucked inside. An example of where this is not done well is “Hancock”. There are no clues leading up to the big flip. It’s just there. Like the writer said, “Ooo, this would be cool”. You have to appreciate and respect your audience. People will pick your work apart looking for holes and inconsistencies. The entire novel/movie must support the big flip.
But you can’t be too obvious. If people see it coming like a giant flying booger then the effect is lost. It will plop on the page, and your readers will be very disappointed. Superman Returns is a great example of this. The big flip of the boy being his son. My reaction - Duh! That movie is a great representation of plot holes and inconsistencies. You want a lesson on what not to do – watch this movie with a critical eye. Seriously. Sorry, rambling…
I was very fortunate to have the same person read my manuscript twice to help prevent this. (Thank you, Beej! You’re still the best.) The first time she read it, I wanted to know when and if she figured things out or if she had guesses as to what was coming next. My favorite answer was on one particular surprise, “Not until you revealed it in the book.” (Giggle, giggle, girl dance.) Then for round two, I wanted her to see where I put the clues – and she got ‘em. It was awesome to see her draw a big red smiley face by one in particular. (Woohoo! Success.) Sorry that was vague, but I hope that one day you will all read it – and I won’t be my own spoiler.
Have you used this style in any of your work? What’s one of your biggest flips? What’s the worst you’ve ever seen? (Be vague; we don’t want to be spoilers.)