The other day, I received an email from one of the many journal’s I’ve submitted to, informing me that they were going to pass on my piece. This is a familiar sight for me, always a little disappointing, but, at the same time, understandable. I did have hopes for this piece because it’s one of my favorites, but it was written for a contest on a website, so there are very few places that will still accept it (thought it’ll likely make its way into this year’s World Unknown Review). What was nice about this particular rejection letter was that the editors still offered some feedback and thoughts on the piece, which I usually find pretty uplifting because it really does boil down to a matter of preferences.
Now, this particular editor praised me for the depth of the characters (yay! And more evidence that I should perhaps consider expanding this story to something more), as well as the uniqueness of the world, but felt that the story lacked an element of surprise. The plot was fairly predictable, foreshadowed in the beginning, and I knew that from the get-go. A reviewer pointed out that a majority of the stories in Bowlful of Bunnies have a little surprising twist at the end, which was not a bad thing, but, at the same time, I didn’t want to find out that I use a twist as a crutch. Did every story have to have a big surprising twist at the end to be good? I didn’t think so, and so I’ve been working on trying to balance out my twisty endings with some straighter ones that fulfill a concept that has stuck with me from a class about myths in college. I can’t remember the exact terminology for the life of me (my Google-fu was weak on this one), but it was something about a classic myth or story creating an expectation and the fulfillment of that expectation.
For all intents and purposes, this story did that. Gave you an expectation, foreshadowed it, fulfilled it. True, no big twist, but still an entertaining yarn (I hope). No where in the classic story structure of “beginning, climax, resolution” does it mention “twist.” A story does not need that element to be good. Granted, this particular editor was looking for something with a surprise and a twist, which made the story unsuitable for a surprising, twist-filled edition, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. But I do think it’s incorrect to believe that a story needs a twist to be good. I think of one of my favorite writers in this case, Ha Jin, and how many of his stories are just stories, telling about certain events. It makes me think of the complaints about The Walking Dead and how “nothing happens!,” or of the Sharing Knife series by Lois McMaster Bujold, where a lot of it is just about a journey and how people relate to each other rather than big climatic events (though there’s no shortage of those in the books, either).
I like those stories. Sometimes, I just like to escape into a world for a little bit and stay there, all nice and cozy. A big twist can be a lot of fun, but I’m okay without one, too. I got to thinking: surely, I can’t be alone! So I turn it to you, dear readers: what are your thoughts? Do you find a story needs a little twist to be entertaining? Or do you sometimes find comfort in the predictable, in the fulfillment of your expectations? I think we’ve become too dependent on the twist as a whole, and should just get back to some good, solid storytelling.