IS TWIST NECESSARY IN CLIMAX ?
In my previous blogs , I had discussed relevance and importance of climax in a novel. I had suggested that there are two types of climax. I had suggested that every plot has its own momentum and that momentum culminates into the climax of a novel. On the other hand , every novel has some specific theme which gives rise to the thematic climax. Ideally , in a good novel , both these climaxes occur simultaneously. In this blog , I would discuss the need and significance of a twist in the climax. Of course , everyone loves novelists like O. Henry who invariably introduce twists in the climax to allow readers to experience catharsis. Honestly , I don’t think anyone else can come close to that exceptional calibre. The real problem with a novelist is that , in spite of being aware of one’s limitations , a novelist is still required to construct a climax in her /his novel. Therefore , I would restrict myself to the idea of a twist in the climax from a novelist’s perspective and describe what problems a novelist faces while introducing a twist. I would try to describe my own experience while writing a climax and why I find it difficult to introduce a twist.
Let me begin with the kind of twists that a novelist can introduce in the climax. There could be a twist that obviously results in the climax which is exactly opposite to what a reader is led to expect. This is de rigueur for crime and detective novels. However , there is another type of twist that is employed in a lesser number of novels. This type of twist consists of arriving at the anticipated climax but in a manner that is totally unexpected. This type of twist is rarer because it demands greater skills from a novelist. Just think of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. In some of his famous movies , the audience is told about the climax right in the beginning. However , a viewer is kept in suspense till the end about how the climax is brought about.
The distinction between these two types of twists is based on two premises. The first type of twist , where a reader is misled into expecting particular climax , depends on the momentum of several subplots culminating into the climax. The description of these subplots is such that a reader starts expecting a certain climax. However, when there is a twist in the plot , an unexpected end occurs. This build up of expectations and its subsequent denouement brings about the desired catharsis. This kind of climax is essentially a structural in nature.
In the second type of twist , the premise is not structural in nature because the climax results in accordance with the demands of the several subplots and is in tune with a reader’s expectations. However , the twist arises because of subtle changes in themes of the subplots. Since the climax is as anticipated , it brings about a sense of emotional release. However , since the climax comes due to the unexpected reasons from the known details of the subplots , it results in different emotional experience. This leads to enlightenment and emotional closure.
Thus there are two types of twists , structural and thematic. This requires different types skills from a novelist. Therefore , let me describe my own experiences while writing two novels. As I have mentioned in my previous blog that in my first novel , I was forced to employ two types of climaxes separately. This was because the novel is written by the protagonist in the form of recollections of his life in hospital. Therefore , the structural climax of the plot occurs before he is admitted to hospital after his nervous breakdown. However , the thematic climax , in the form of emotional closure , occurs when the protagonist achieves while reconstructing his past and narrating his nervous breakdown.
In the second novel , which I am about to finish , I am trying to blend both , the thematic and the structural , climaxes into a single event. However , I am facing a different kind of problem. This is a problem of being faithful to readers as well as characters of my novel. Since this novel is in the first person narrative , the protagonist narrates his innermost thoughts to the readers. This results in the readers forming a very intimate view of the protagonist. Therefore , whatever the climax maybe , it has to arise naturally from the perception of the protagonist that a reader might form. However , this perception by the readers need not be same as the self perception of the protagonist himself. Therefore , I am trying to create a scenario wherein the climax would be a natural culmination of the expectations of the readers based on their perception of the protagonist. However , this natural culmination must come as a surprising twist from the protagonist’s perspective. This is because , there is a mismatch between the self perception of the protagonist and the perception of the protagonist by the readers. The readers already know how the protagonist is deceived by his own subconscious mind. However , the protagonist is never aware of this deception. Therefore , what readers could anticipate clearly , becomes a surprising twist to the protagonist. His subconscious mind prevents him from detecting this deception. Though , I have not actually written this part , I am very clear about it.
However , the real challenge , according to me , is to create a climax which not only surprises the protagonist but also surprises the readers. This would be possible only when readers experience thematic twist. This is because readers would have clear idea of the momentum of the plot as well as a clear theme of the protagonist’s mind. Therefore , they can not be surprised by either structural or thematic twist. So , I am planning to introduce a thematic twist that would thematically surprise both ,the protagonist and the readers. If I can achieve this , then it would enable readers to realize that their own subconscious minds too had set up a deception. Therefore , the readers would experience catharsis from two sources, one by identifying themselves with the protagonist and the other by realising that they too were deceived by their own minds. Frankly speaking , I have just a vague idea how to do that. In next few weeks , I hope to finish the novel.
In my next blog , I would discuss how a novelist copes with the emotions that she /he experiences while closing the novel.