Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TWIST AT THE END: Tip For Writing Mind-Exploding Endings

Quick Update: Hmmm. So I never did finish that Reality Show series of blogs…hmm.

Song Stuck In My Head: “Ellen”, the Zac Efron/Taylor Swift duet in the style of “Pumped Up Kicks”. My ZacAttack crush is returning. Damn…you…DISNEY… CHANNELLLLLL….!

This post on twist endings couldn’t be more time-relevant. See, TV shows all have three types of “finales”. Series finale, the depressing end to a series that cuts all ties and ends all storylines. Season finale, or TV’s summer vacation. Usually the plots and subplots are resolved, but they’ll hint at what’s to come.

And then you got you these “winter finales”. Translation: Hi, viewers. We’re going to give you a huge Twist Ending and then play re-runs or give a midseason replacement a chance to shine. See ya in two months, suckers!

This year’s been good on them. How I Met Your Mother’s “not yet”. Glee’s car crash. Even American Idol has left me biting off my fingernails over Phillip Phillips’ fate. Okay, that last one isn’t a winter finale, but it still sucks, okay?

Either way, I had a semi-revelation-epiphany last week about twist endings, so I thought I’d share. After all, while most of us manage to have a unique storyline and some memorable characters, the one thing that won’t always come naturally is twist endings. And when you got one, you know it.

Sometimes they’d already been happening without us knowing, like Harry Potter’s Professor Quirrel being the baddie, not Snape. Maybe they reveal a secret about the main character that’s been building up - Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Demon’s Lexicon” has a excellent example of this.

Or maybe they’re just an action that makes us drop the book. If anyone’s ever read the Morganville Vampires, in which every book ends with a twist ending it seems like, you know this action. I mean, in the first one alone one of the main characters gets STABBED, people. He comes back, but still. Intense.

Twist endings can be really difficult to pull off. It’s like in Inception, when they try to plant an idea without making it seem forced or coming from someone else. They try to make the idea feel as natural as possible. That’s the challenge for writers, especially those who write in a series - how do you foreshadow, reveal secrets and tidbits, try to clue readers in on the important true fax…without making it obvious?

Some stories are great, but predictable. My literature class is reading the Great Gatsby, for instance. The girl who sits next to me, a fellow bookworm, said she could already guess what happens by chapter two. And she did, more or less. She foreshadowed the romance. She foreshadowed the deaths (one of them, at least). It was sort of uncanny.

Whether you’re a fan of spoilers or not, a predictable book is never as fun as a twist ending. After all, those are the ones you remember. The ones that make you look back and say, “EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD MAKES TOTAL SENSE NOW! THANK YOU MAGICAL AUTHOR! THANKYOUUUU!”. That.

My main issue has of course been that I don’t truly know what my twist ending was (is? Will be? Whatever) after changing the storyline so many times over the past few months. Thus, I didn’t know what to hint, what to add. After all, I didn’t know what it led to. So I randomly tried something last week.

I wrote my antagonist’s make-believe “tell-all” scene.

You know in the movies, that corny scene at the end when the villain gets just a tad cocky and says something along the lines of, “Well, since I’m about to finish you off anyways, let me tell you exactly how we got to this point, exactly how I conquered you, usually giving you enough time to fight/escape/snidely remark back?” Well, if you’re having trouble making your story twist and shout, here’s an idea…write your own tell-all scene.

That’s right.

Be corny if you wish, but basically have your villain/antagonist tell your hero/protag all the clues he/she should have seen, what led up to the bad ending. Have him/her go over every diabolical detail. Have him laugh evilly over your hero’s mistakes.

Will you include this scene in your actual WIP? No, probably not.

Will you have an idea of what clues, mistakes, hints, etc. to add throughout your WIP like seasoning? You should. Bonus: you’ll get to flesh out your villain a little bit too, including his motives. Your antagonist does have motives, doesn’t he?

This is just my new way though. So far, I’ve been feeling more confident.

But how about you guys - how have you handled twist endings? What’s the most memorable twist ending you could remember? (Not just books…any twist ending!)

And to end such a dramatically long post...


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Talent Reality Shows Face Off: Part TWO

Quick Update: So I'm actually blogging as scheduled. Yay me, I guess.

Song Stuck In My Head: Smells Like Teen Spirit, the Nirvana cover by 2CELLOS. Has anyone seen these two guys? No? GO TO YOUTUBE. NOW.

Okay, so if anyone had seen my last post, you know that SSF has a Talent Reality Show theme going on this week. We're judging the shows like their contestants get judged.

So let's get right to it. Monday was the Premises, Prizes, and Network. Don't believe me? READ IT FOR YOURSELF. Today is the HOSTS, JUDGES, WINNERS, and LOOOOSERS.

American Idol: Ryan Seacrest, who makes sure you see a lot of him. Or hear a lot of him. Top 40 radio. New's Years Specials. Hosting everything he possibly can. But he has a nice smile, so we like him, okay?

X Factor: Steve Jones. Ahhh...hopefully you didn't get too attached.

The Voice: Carlson Daly, a man trying ever so hard to be the next Seacrest through his own late night show (airs after Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno, when most of the world is asleep) and even hosting his own New Year's special! Good for him.

America's Got Talent: Fiesty Nick Cannon, also Mr. Mariah Carey. Easygoing dude who jokes around with the talent a lot. After all, it get's pretty ridiculous. First you have a dance crew or innocent little kid, then you have a drag queen or...well, this. Does anyone remember this?

Winner of this round: No one can deny the power of the Seacrest. AMERICAN IDOL takes this guys.


American Idol: Second year of having stable judges, which hasn't happened in a while. Formula: Nice, Latina divorcee plus Flirtacious 70's rock singer plus Experienced but Hip Music Mogul. Somehow it works, though poor Randy Jackson has had to make the harsh critiques a lot more often with no one to properly advise the contestants.

X Factor: Everyone's favorite British badmouth who's softened up like a marshmallow so far, and a record label superstar who discovered everyone from Pink to Justin Bieber to - the most important in my petty, teenage book - Avril Lavigne. As for the Ex-Pop Star and inexperienced female group leader, the axe came down on hard on them. Who know Simon could do such a thing, cutting two people off his show just like that! Oh, wait...

The Voice: Country star, pop/soul singer rocking the Top 40, pop/rock band leader taking over the Top 40, and one ex-pop star who, despite her haters, is still well-known for her voice. IT's a formula that covers all genres and would well, if only they actually showed the judges being anything but nice to the contestants. At least they compete with each other.

America's Got Talent: How this formula works, I don't know, but it does. Lovely British wife of a heavy metal superhero mixed with a former comedian whose other TV credits include Deal or No Deal and Mobbed, and now trashtalking radio host Howard Stern. While we've yet to see Stern in action, he will surely be a worthy replacement for the intelligent but cruel past judge, Piers Morgan.

Winner this round: Any show except for the X Factor. So, AMERICAN IDOL, THE VOICE, and AMERICA'S GOT TALENT...congrads! Prizes for all!

Now onto the actual winners...


American Idol: Everyone from superstars Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood to erm....Jordin Sparks, the cool Lee Dewyze (Duwyze?) dude, and that-guy-with-the-gray-hair-everyone-forgot-about-I-think.

Let's play a that Idol!

X Factor: So far, Melanie Armaro, with a huge comeback and hero's story. She was also recently featured in a Pepsi commercial with Elton John. Yep. Sponsorship and Corporate America is still going strong.

The Voice: Javier Colon! Hmm. Wonder how that dude's doing....

America's Got Talent: A surprising number of singers and artists for a show focused on variety acts...coincidence? Though there is no denying Landaeu Eugene Murphy deserved the win last year.

Winner this round: the X far...

And onto the people who sometimes are just as famous if not more famous than their winners...


American Idol: Everyone from Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert to Smash's Katharine McPhee, Weight Watchers/Dream Girl Jennifer Hudson, and Daughtry frontman Chris Daughtry.

X Factor: A lot of people, but we mostly remember the kids. Like smart-mouth rapper Astro, who got a gig on...a detective show! (Seriously!)

The Voice: Um....those people. You know. With the faces?

America's Got Talent: Another everybody. Jackie Evancho, the opera-singing little girl, didn't win even. Can you believe that!? Of course, America's Got Talent actually has a reason why some acts aren't always the winners or voted you really want young, innocent Jackie hosting her own Vegas show?

The winners this round: American Idol all the way. No show's runners-up and even bad auditioners have gone on to achieve as much as fame as the winners, not like Idol. So at least they got that going for them.

That is all for today, my friends. But be sure to comment on who you think deserve the best of the best when it comes to the people on talent reality shows. Really. I like comments.




Monday, February 6, 2012


Quick Update: So...Superbowl...yeah.

Song Stuck in My Head: Supermassive Black Hole by Muse

American Idol returned last month. The Voice’s second season debuted last night. The first American X Factor was crowned not even two months ago, and recently dropped two judges and a host. Annnd America’s Got Talent is in its beginning stages of its summer season, with new judge Howard Stern.

Whether they’re dancing, having mental breakdowns, singing, yelling at judges, or performing fire tricks there’s no denying TV is full of those talent reality shows. Maybe you’re an avid fan yourself. You love them for their showcasing of starving artists, giving them the chance they never had. Or maybe you just watch for Simon Cowell’s jibes, we don’t judge (pun intended.)

Welcome to SSF’s TALENT REALITY SHOW WEEK. A week to kick back and relax and discuss various shows’ merits and well…more laughable parts. A sort of compare and contrast, if you will.

First, let’s meet our contestants….

American Idol - Search the country for an unsigned artist. Give them a microphone, give America a phone line. Occasional celebrity advice, but mostly the artist is on their own.

Number of seasons: Currently in eleventh. Must be pretty successful.
Stolen from a British show? Check. Pop Idol.
Sponsored by: Coca Cola.

The X Factor - Search the country for an unsigned artist, or group, of any age and give them a microphone and randomly chosen mentor. Categorize them by Girls, Boys, Groups, and Over 30’s. Occasional celebrity advice, including the mentors’.

Number of seasons: Just finished up first.
Stolen from a British show? You know it. And same name too!
Sponsored by: Pepsi.

The Voice - Search the country for an unsigned artist. Four mentors who choose team based off voice alone, and compete more against each other than the contestants do.

Number of seasons: Currently in second.
Stolen from a British show? No! Congrats, guys! Originality. Except wait just a second...THIS IS BASED OFF A DUTCH SHOW!?
Sponsored by:…hmm. Might have to get back to you on this.

America’s Got Talent - Search the country for…well, anything. Singers, magicians, glass-eaters, dirt bike riders, dance teams, comedians, etc. Three judges are expected to keep cool during the chaos, America is expected to narrow down the contestants to top four to get their own Vegas show.

Number of seasons: Six.
Stolen from a British show? Checkcheckcheck. Britain’s Got Talent, of course!
Sponsored by: Orville Redenbacher Gourmet Popcorn (though I do love the Criss Angel commercial).

Winner of this round: The Voice. Unique, fair, and free of some sort of food/drink sponsor and Simon Cowell (we can’t have him on every show.)

Now, tell us, Mr. Host…what do these contestants have to look forward to?

American Idol - Record contract! And either instant fame or getting upstaged by your runner-up, depends. And tour with the top 10 contestants.

The X Factor - Even better record contract! Five million dollars! No tour with the other contestants, who cares about them? You won a FIVE MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT!

The Voice - Record contract! Annnd you get to be on late night shows and stuff, even if you’re a runner-up! And tour with the top 10 contestants.

America’s Got Talent - Your own Vegas show, and a tour with the runner-ups. Neat.

Winner of this round: Tie between X Factor and America’s Got Talent. Sure, we all enjoy money, but record contracts come and go. How often will you be a headliner in Vegas?

Where will our contestants perform this time, Mr. Host? Do tell!


American Idol - Fox. Just in case you didn’t get your Glee fix. Usually plays in the very beginning of the year.

The X Factor - Fox again. (What? We need something to play when we don’t have So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol to rely on. You can only watch so much House.) First season played during fall.

The Voice - NBC’s fun, new winter show that they’re now pairing up with their Glee-esque show about the Broadway life, SMASH. (Which premieres tonight by the way). However, it's also paired up AGAINST American Idol. Fight to the death, anybody?

America’s Got Talent - NBC’s summer show, usually paired up with re-runs of every other NBC show.

Winner of this round: America’s Got Talent. No competition to worry about.

That’s it for today. Do you guys have a favorite premise for any Talent Reality show (not just including these four). Do you agree with the winners for prize and network? Share your thoughts.

So far, we have AGT with two, The Voice with two. X Factor, American Idol….catch up! Tomorrow we’ll cover the people of Talent Reality shows: the Judges, the Hosts, the Winners, and the Losers. Should be fun.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What I Learned in My High School Library Club Today…

Quick Update: Awesome news, friends. I entered YATopia’s contest and just won my first query critique, by author/blogger/former literary agency employee Jodi Meadows. Woot! To keep up with the spirit, I included a link to her website with her name. Check her out. She’s badass.

Song Stuck In My Head: “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani. Orchestra class is learning songs from movie Fiddler in the Roof, including the original “If I Was a Rich Man”, so not too random. Maybe. :/

So, I went to my high school’s fourth Library Club meeting this week. There’s only four regular members and monthly, if even that, meetings. Our purpose: to provide input on which books get ordered. Rather neat power. For instance, I got one of my favorite bloggers Tahereh Mafi and her first novel, Shatter Me, on the top of the list. However, since today was our biggest turn-out, I made some keen observations for my fellow YA writers out there. Some common sense, some interesting. Check it:

1. Power of a Name

Series AND author brand names are still big. Most of our orders were sequels to books we already had, or popular authors like Cassandra Clare and Rick Riordan. While stand-alone novels are always good, most modern teen readers seem to enjoy riding a story beyond one book. As long as the concept is fresh, that is. (Translation: PUT THE VAMPIRE IDEA DOWN! STEP AWAY FROM THE WEREWOLF LOVE STORY!)

2. Get Out the Popcorn

Movie adaptations don’t have to be Harry-Potter size to have an effect. While The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’s success led to us ordering its sequels, I Am Number Four and Beastly didn’t exactly blow up at the box office. Yet, not only is Beastly one of the most checked out books, but I Am Number Four’s sequels made our list. They also make books easier to recommend - I’m proud to say I successfully convinced a girl to at LAST check out the Hunger Games. Muhahaha. Only took how long before the movie? Pssht.

3. Not Too Feminine After All

The boy-girl ratio of YA readers isn’t too dramatic at my school. Out of our eight members this meeting, three were boys and five were girls. They were also mostly seniors, but I’m guessing that’s more because freshman and sophomores are afraid to join clubs than anything else. However, there is somewhat of a time period (around fourteen to seventeen) where a teen reader might slow their reading intake. That age is also usually when they start transitioning from young books to more adult material.

4. Find Your Niche Audience

Tastes vary here. A bunch. For instance, one girl admitted to being a fan of old, archaic and even foreign versions of stories. Then another girl is big on the author Tamora Pierce. And then there’s me, the weirdo who drifts back and forth between the random vampire series and music-themed indie novels. While bestsellers might attract both avid and fair-weather readers, don’t hold back from writing in an odd genre if that’s where you thrive. Your audience is out there somewhere.

5. Standing Out

Word of mouth is valuable. A lot of authors and book/series names were shared, and I know they’ll get checked out, even bought. So don’t be afraid to get yourself out there and make your name known. Today’s writers need more than just a kick-ass story to survive in this publishing world. You never know when or how your future fans will hear about you, so make everything count.

Okay, peeps, that’s all for now. But stick around later this week for a blog on CW’s version of the “Secret Circle”, as part of my series on TV shows. I had one last week on Napoleon Dynamite. Hopefully journalism class will die down enough that I can continue next week too.

And since my blog has been a tad bland as of late…time for LOLcatz apology! (Man, it seems every one of my posts has these now...)