Friday, March 19, 2010

I'll have a Good Story with a Twist, Please

I don't know about you, but I read the books I buy over and over again. If I've got a few hours to kill, or it's a rainy afternoon, or I wake up thinking about a character from a story I liked, I grab the book in question and dive back into it. Sometimes I'll just read a key scene or two -- my favorites or maybe the ones that got stuck in my brain and sent me hunting for the book in the first place. Sometimes I start at page one and read all the way through to THE END. Depends on my mood, I guess.

Reading a book the second time is very different for me than my first pass. So different, in fact, that I usually read everything twice right from the start, just to get the full experience. The first time through, I get completely caught up by the action. I plow through the story, desperate to find out how it all ends. The second time, I don't worry so much about the plot, because I already know what's coming. The second time through, I notice all those little details I missed during that first, very rushed, experience.

Now, because I read things over and over again, my favorite books are ones that offer me something new on the second reading, something that I couldn't have gotten on the first go around even if I had been reading carefully. I like stories that have a good twist, something that not only takes the plot off in a new direction, but also colors everything that came before it once you know the secret.

I want to give examples here, but I think it would make for an unnecessarily long blog post if I started pasting in excerpts from entire novels. Plus, I don't want to spoil things for folks if they haven't had the pleasure of reading those books yet. However, a solution popped into my head in the shower this morning (as it seems all solutions do) and I think I've got some examples I can use now.

And now I shall reveal to you all my bumpkin side. I listen to a lot of country music. I could blame this on my residence in South Carolina -- it's tough to live here and listen to anything else -- but the truth is that I've been listening to country music since long before I relocated to the Deep South. And, as with novels, my favorite songs are those with a twist, a line somewhere in the song that changes the meaning of every line that came before it, so that you end up enjoying the song in a completely different way the next time you hear it.

Don't worry, I'm not going to give you pages and pages of song lyrics. Just a few snippets here and there.

The first is a fairly new song, the one that was playing and got me thinking about this idea today in the first place.
Pray for You, performed by Jaron and the Long Road to Love, written by Jaron Lowenstein and Joel Brentlinger
Haven't been in church since I don't remember when
Things were going great 'til they fell apart again
So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do
Said you can't go hating others who done wrong to you
Sometimes we get angry but we must not condemn
Let the good Lord do his job and you just pray for them

I pray your brakes go out running down a hill
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill
And knocks you in the head like I'd like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray your flying high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are, honey, I pray for you

The song goes on from there, with more examples of this guy's special brand of prayer for his ex and how much better he feels now that he's found his way back to the church, but I think you get the idea.

The second starts out sounding a bit more like a stereotypical country song. Man watching a woman dancing with another man, lamenting about how she used to be his. Oh, boy, it's another breakup country song. Um . . . or not.
I Loved Her First, performed by Heartland, written by Walt Aldridge and Elliott Park
Look at the two of you dancing that way
Lost in the moment and each other's face
So much in love you're alone in this place
Like there's nobody else in the world

I was enough for her not long ago
I was her number one, she told me so
And she still means the world to me, just so you know
So be careful when you hold my girl

Time changes everything; life must go on
And I'm not gonna stand in your way

But I loved her first, and I held her first
And a place in my heart will always be hers
From the first breath she breathed
When she first smiled at me
I knew the love of a father runs deep
And I prayed that she'd find you someday
But it still hard to give her away
I loved her first

I think this is now probably one of the most popular father-daughter dance songs at weddings.

And for my final example, I give you the chorus of one of my favorite fun songs.
Cleaning This Gun, performed by Rodney Atkins, written by Casey Beathard and Marla Cannon-Goodman
Come on in boy, sit on down and tell me about yourself
So you like my daughter, do you now? Yeah we think she's something else
She's her daddy's girl, her momma's world
She deserves respect, that’s what she'll get, ain’t it son?
Hey y'all run along and have some fun
I'll see you when you get back, bet I’ll be up all night
Still cleanin' this gun

Seems like a fairly benign conversation between a father and his daughter's date. Until you realize that he's been sitting there with a gun in front of him the whole time. I feel like all those questions got answered with a good solid "Yes Sir".

So there you have it, a few examples of the type of twist I'm talking about. Now if I could just figure out how to write twists like that into my novels, I'd be all set . . .

1 comment:

haricot vert said...

When you find the secret, taunt me until I find it too. :)