Against the Sunset,
oil on canvas, 1906.
We're all familiar with the macro twist in fiction: unexpected reversals at the end of mysteries and thrillers where, for example, the confident , the trusted associate, turns out to be the villain.
In the midst of last week's blizzard, I came across a post that discussed using the micro twist: the use of subtle mini reversals at the sentence level to elicit reader's interest and sustain reader curiousity.
Something as simple as having a stop light turn red, rather than be red (Note: passivity is not the point here), as minor as having a character physically reverse direction.
Readers are unconsciously intrigued by changes and opposites, such as JA Konrath's (see sidebar) recent assertion, "Contrary to what people say, I'm not perfect."
Of course, now I can't find that particular post about micro use to link you to it. It's somewhere under another foot of snow.
The midi twist operates effectively in individual scenes. The reader is set up to expect one result and is offered another, or supplied with an entirely different perspective of events.
Flash fiction frequently makes use of this form of twist.
So do jokes.
Perhaps novel scenes, flash and jokes share similarities in construction.
What follows is one of those endless loop internet jokes which contains the essential elements of the midi twist.
The Widow and the Ranch Hand
A rancher died and left everything to his young, lovely and devoted wife.
Determined to keep the ranch but realizing she couldn't manage everything alone, she placed an ad in the newspaper for hired help.
Two cowboys applied for the job. One was gay and the other a drunk.
She decided to hire the gay guy, figuring he would be safer bet on a lonely ranch than the drunk.
He turned out to be a hard worker who put in long hours, knew his stuff. and was really nice to have around.
They worked together and the ranch did very well.
One day, the widow said to the hired hand "You've worked hard and done a really good job. You deserve a break. Go into town, relax and kick up your heels."
So the next Saturday night he went to town.
Twelve o'clock came and the cowboy didn't return. One o'clock and no hired hand.
When he arrived back about two in the morning he found the rancher's widow sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine, waiting for him.
She called him over to her and said in a soft voice, "Unbutton my blouse and take it off."
Trembling, he did so.
"Now take off my boots." He did as she asked, ever so slowly.
"Now take off my skirt." He removed it gently, watching her eyes in the firelight.
"Now my bra."
Again, with trembling hands, he did as he was told and dropped it on the floor.
Then she looked at him and said, "If you ever wear my clothes to town again, you're fired."