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The Setup and Bury

The further I go with this little writing endeavor, the more I learn. Sometimes it is taught to me by others. Sometimes it is just something that is observed. In this case it is the latter.

Every book has twists and turns in the plot. Some are major and others are minor. But there are always several bends in the road for the reader to enjoy. They are pivotal for keeping the reader glued to the book. The idea is to to present that twist suddenly. You want to slap them in the face with it so they don't see it coming. The trick I have learned here is to bury it deep within a paragraph. You are going to camouflage it in a body of words. But first you need to set it up as clandestinely as possible. Pretend with me for a second.

Allison has been kidnapped. She has no idea where she is going because big, burly men have pulled a dark bag over her head and tossed her in a car. When they arrive at their destination, they remove her bag, and we get the following paragraph...

Allison recoiled from the sudden change in light as the bag was ripped from her head. She blinked, confused in the momentary blindness as her eyes desperately tried to adapt to the change. She was surrounded on all sides by the four men who abducted her. These were not mere thugs. Their expensive suites hinted at a higher class of criminal. Their broad shoulders and chiseled faces clued her in that when they were not kidnapping female detectives for the NYPD, they were pumping iron in a gym to prepare themselves for the next mission. And despite their well tailored jackets, the bulges underneath spoke of their willingness to take this to the next level should physical strength prove not enough to get the job done.

That, my friends, was the setup to the twist. Did you see it? I'm sure you did, even if you have no idea where I am going with this. But bear with me a bit longer.

After the setup is complete, we can take our time building to the twist. It can be as many paragraphs or chapters as you like. You have seeded the details for the twist to work, so all you have to do is water it until it is time to slap the reader in the face. So, here are the paragraphs containing the twist...

Allison was shoved forward, propelled into the shadows of the waiting warehouse with one meaty tap to her shoulder, all four well-dressed henchman falling in behind. She did not know who they were bringing her to meet, but she was looking forward to finding out who was bold enough to kidnap a police detective and think they could get away it. She was sure that whoever waited ahead of her in this darkened warehouse did not intend for her to walk out of it free. She still looked forward for the meeting, but it would be far better if she went to it on her own terms.

Another forceful tap to her shoulder and she staggered a bit. Then another, and again, she staggered just slightly. Another poke between the shoulder blades and she snapped. Any pretense at patience left her in a rush. Spinning around, she did not launch into set of jabs or blows with hands and feet. Instead, she drove herself into her immediate pursuer, driving her head up into his chin and pushing in hard with her legs. The man was sent off balance and careening backwards into his friends, scattering them in all directions.

Four against one odds were never great in hand to hand combat, but she had a few things working in her favor. First of all, whoever had ordered these men to fetch her by force must have given instructions not harm her. If not, they would have already ended her. They were under orders to bring her here for a one-on-one with their boss. They could restrain her, but they could not kill her. This would put them on the defensive. Secondly, and more importantly, she now had the first guy's pistol between her hands, snatched from under his suit when she thrust her body into his.

And now does it all make sense? The twist was her stealing the man's gun. The set up was letting you know it was there to begin with.

The setup was presented in such a way so that the reader thought it mere decoration for the story. It was just a detail placed to bring you into the surroundings and the situation. And despite their well tailored jackets, the bulges underneath spoke of their willingness to take this to the next level should physical strength prove not enough to get the job done. It was just a tiny detail. In truth, this sentence provided the tool that she would use to flip the tables on the bad guys.

The twist, Allison snatching the gun from under the first guy's coat, was buried deep in the paragraph. And why? Because a reader's eyes are already scanning ahead of the words they are actually reading. They are already seeing three or four words ahead. Especially in the beginning of a new paragraph. But if you present the twist much deeper in the body of text, preferably in the last line, they become more engaged as they go and don't see it coming until they get to the end. This late, buried delivery, will serve to add more emotional impact to the twist and make it more weighted - interpreted as enjoyable - to the readers mind. You have elevated their experience by being a bit more strategic. If I would have dropped the twist as the opening sentence to the next paragraph, you likely would have seen it coming before I wanted you to, and the effect would have been minimized.

So, as all you new writers forage ahead in your juvenile careers, take this lesson to heart. I wish I would have learned this trick earlier. Anyone can tell a story. The standouts tell it strategically.

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