Writers Write is a comprehensive writing resource. In this post, we talk about three plot devices you should be using in your writing.
Storytelling normally follows a linear plot structure, one of rising tension reaching the point of climax. As writers, we use this template because it works very well. However, I’ve been watching a few movies lately that use innovative — often bizarre – plot devices that we can learn from as novelists.
Unhinged – 3 Plot Devices You Should Definitely Be Using
- The Hinge. In the 60s thriller, The Boston Strangler, a sadistic serial killer holds the people of Boston in a grip of terror. The first half of the movie follows detectives chasing down clues and tip-offs with no success. Then, right in the middle, we get the hinge. The story abruptly swaps viewpoint and focus and we’re right in the world of the strangler, Albert. A family man, with a split personality, the second half of the story takes us in a new direction, into his descent into madness as he reconciles the two identities living inside his mind. When to use it? If the psychology of your killer — the whydunit — is more important than catching the killer — the whodunit — then this will work very well.
- The Circle. In Quentin Tarantino’s iconic Pulp Fiction, we find a circular narrative. The story opens in a diner at the moment of a hold-up. We then cut away from this and track several storylines – all interconnected but told out of sequence. We then end up in the same diner and follow on from the moment of the hold-up. As we follow the circle all the way around, the meaning of the other storylines fall into place and we have the ‘full picture’ as the audience. When to use it? If you have a multiple-plot storyline that intersects in certain places, this will work. Think of it as breaking up a clock-face and re-arranging it in a way that highlights the tension.
- The Puzzle. In the surreal, disturbing 2001 movie, Mulholland Drive, the director offers a story of alternate realities and identities. While we may believe we’re watching Hitchcockian noir-thriller, we may also be inside the main character’s dream. To create this effect, the story is told from the subconscious, which if you’ve ever remembered your dreams, you know that they hardly ever make sense. We’re given most of the puzzle pieces, but not all of them. While the plot breadcrumbs become clues, viewers are then left to interpret the symbolism for themselves. When to use it? If you’re writing a story that focuses on the interior world of one character and you want to explore the fragmented reality of this character, this device or technique will work well.
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