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Old March 13th, 2020, 01:16 AM   #1
also known as Ryan Wray
 
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At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

When it comes to revealing a twist in a screenplay, I'm torn on how do you figure out, when the best time to reveal it.

A lot of times in stories, especially thriller, stories, like mine, reveal the twist when the main character finds out the twist. That way, the reader both find out through the main character's eyes as he/she does.

I wrote my screenplay like that at first but after revising it, I wonder if I should reveal it earlier, cause doing so early creates the "bomb under the table" as the Hitchcock term goes.

One movie that reveals the twist before the main character finds out is Vertigo. The reason why, is because if you know there is a bomb under the table before it goes off, it creates suspense.

Another movie that reveals the twist long before the main character finds out is The Departed. This isn't really spoiling anything since it's revealed right in the beginning of the movie, but we the audience, know right from the beginning, that the Matt Damon character, is bad. Because the writers thought it was good to have the bomb under the table.

Now they could have not revealed that, and saved for a much bigger surprise by revealing it when the Leonardo DiCaprio character finds out.

But they decided that the bomb under the table is better. Where as other stories like to wait to reveal things, when the main character finds out, like The Sixth Sense for example. In that movie, instead of going for the bomb under the table, you have no idea, and they let the bomb explosion be a total surprise, they don't want you to see coming at all.

So how do you know which method of revealing a twist is better? Knowing that there is a bomb under the table that is going to off, or not, and letting the explosion be a total surprise in itself?

Also, after revealing a twist, the audience is going to want an explanation for the twist, otherwise they won't understand it. Such as for example, a character you thought was good, but turns out to be bad and a villain all along. Now that doesn't mean the audience knows why, or knows the motivations. So is it best to reveal the motivation the same time as revealing the twist, like say in a flashback that follows?

Or can the audience wait until later, when the villain meets with another villain and they would have a conversation that reveals the motive then? The problem with that though, is the audience is going to be left wondering for an explanation till later on, rather than showing a flashback immediately following the twist reveal.

What do you think, and how do you decide which method is better for your story?
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Old March 13th, 2020, 01:36 AM   #2
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

The best timing for key points is for at least two things to be happening at the the same time, one of which impinges badly on the main protagonist. If it's really important at the end of the first or second acts, or the mid point od the second act.

There are a lot of script writing books which you should be reading. for example, Syd Field has a number of practical books on screen writing.

The set ups are key for all these things, if you've preparing to reveal twists the ground work has to be laid out, even if the audience doesn't know it is and ideally they don't.

From your questions read Syd Field because you don't seem to be thinking like a scriptwriter. You don't seem to inside YOUR story, since you still keep referring to other films and since we don't know your story or characters, we can't answer your questions.

Often you find the right way by doing it the wrong way and rewriting it again and again.
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Old March 13th, 2020, 04:25 AM   #3
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Ryan - it suddenly occurred to me that maybe (and I don't know your current education level) you could be an ideal candidate for education at Masters or Doctorate level? You really want to understand how things work, rather than actually doing them. I have some friends who are now 'Dr' not 'Mr' and they're the same - they like to study, compare, contrast, analyse and document - in practical terms they're pretty incapable of doing things because they do this analytical process as part of their day to day activity. They need toothpaste, so instead of going to the shop and seeing one that says whitener, and another that says for sensitive teeth, they take pictures of the contents, the manufacturer and spend a couple of days researching each chemical, it's effects and long term benefits or hazards to health. They then use the internet to read people's opinions. Then, they go back to the shop to buy and discover there's now a new formation!
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Old March 13th, 2020, 07:28 AM   #4
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

I agree with Paul, Ryan would be better off in the world of academics. I also enjoyed your toothpaste story.

Poor Ryan is trying to follow in the footsteps of Tarantino, too bad he can’t get a job at a video store.

So basically you’re saying in one movie they did it one way and in another movie they did it another way and your asking people who haven’t read your script what you should do. The obvious answer is there is no one right way to do it as long as you do it right. Brian is recommending material helps understand the underlining concepts.

The problem with your copy paste approach, without understanding the fundamentals of screenwriting and developing your own ideas you are dependent on outside material and have no strong opinions of your own.
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Old March 13th, 2020, 09:17 AM   #5
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Oh okay, well as far as having opinions of my own, I do have a lot of opinions of my own, but there are pros and cons to everything so if I choose to do something one, way, there will be pros and cons to it, so I thought it was a matter of which approach is best, since they both have positives and negatives, each.

I also do have really strong opinions on some things, but I am often told they are bad, so if my opinions are bad, I want external opinions on which is the best way, if that is the approach I should take if my opinions are not the best?

I was also told on here before that me having strong opinions locks me into only one way of working things, so if that's true, than shouldn't I seek other opinions then, instead of working in a vacuum?

It's just if I stick to my opinions and make a whole movie in a vacuum, I feel there is a better chance it will turn out bad, and therefore, shouldn't I seek other opinions?
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Old March 13th, 2020, 09:47 AM   #6
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

No one can express an opinion on a script they know nothing about. It's like asking which colour car should you buy when no one knows which make or model it is, All they can say is they like the colour red, blue, pink or whatever they like, it's nothing to do with the car.

It's been suggested before in another thread that you get a script reader or doctor to give you feedback on your script.

Even then you need to be able to interpret what they're saying, because good ones won't tell you directly. They'll hold up a "mirror" and it's up to you act upon what you see in their reaction or notes.
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Old March 13th, 2020, 01:31 PM   #7
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Oh okay, why won't the good ones tell you directly?
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Old March 13th, 2020, 01:43 PM   #8
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Because it's your script, not their script and they are reporting on impressions without telling you what to do. You may get differing reports from the script people, because the whole process is subjective. If there's a possible issue there can be a number of creative ways of solving it. some of which are left field, this is what you need to explore as the writer.

All they can do is confirm what you're trying to say is or isn't coming across.
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Old March 13th, 2020, 01:58 PM   #9
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Oh okay, I thought that script doctors would have advice on what to do instead, of something is not right. However, I try to present more than one execution, so they can pick one which is best, unless they won't do that.
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Old March 13th, 2020, 02:37 PM   #10
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

You need to know yourself, a writer needs to have judgment and know what they're trying to say. If you don't have the conviction in what you're wiring why should anyone else? It's not a multi choice exam, because any change has implications to other aspects of the story,

You're not working in a writers' room as in TV and you don't have the budget to pay a writer, so you need to write you own drafts. That can get over a dozen drafts before everything is sorted.

With your budget, you can't afford the level of detail that you seem to want from the script people.
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Old March 14th, 2020, 12:06 AM   #11
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Oh okay. When you say the level of detail, you mean the detail in their feedback?
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Old March 14th, 2020, 01:11 AM   #12
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

I think Brian’s response is quite clear. Asking the question shows that you find it impossible to analyse the written word. When you pay somebody to review your script you can’t then ask them questions about their comments but I suspect you would get the document and email back “so you mean ......”

You really are quite difficult to communicate with Ryan. If you do this with script readers they charge you for their work. At some point Ryan you need to grow a set and make your own decisions without constantly wanting reassurance you’ve got it right. In life you’re a ditherer. You need to learn to listen, consider and decide!
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Old March 14th, 2020, 01:47 AM   #13
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

The detail depends on what you're paying and what type of report it is. At the higher end they will give a longer written report and will do a face to face for an hour or so, while some others don't do full a written report, but will spend the time giving a face to face instead.

However, they will want to see a script, not a series of what ifs. You should've worked those out at the treatment stage. The one you selected may not have worked, so you have to revisit the options, but that's not the same thing. These can be pretty brutal affairs even if your script is up to a professional writer's standard, but isn't working.

Why are asking this, when you seem be asking how to shoot stuff?
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Old March 14th, 2020, 01:59 AM   #14
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

Oh I just looked at the script and came across this now. Didn't notice it before.

I just wonder if the audience will be asking more questions, as they wait for the reveal, where as if the reveal is revealed beforehand, they may not. But then the negative of that is the reveal is not as big, if it's given away sooner. Just noticed it later on.

Well I feel that it would be safer to give away the reveal sooner, because then the reader will not ask questions, cause they know what's going on. But a part of me is saying, don't play it safe, trust the reader will want to keep reading even if they now have more unanswered questions, and give them a bigger surprise later.
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Old March 14th, 2020, 02:03 AM   #15
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Re: At what point do you decide to reveal a twist in a screenplay?

We can't answer that because we don't know anything about your script.

A twist is usually later than sooner, otherwise it's not a twist. If it's set up correctly, the twist is the pay off.
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