The Meta Twist
Say you’re into a particular author who likes giving each of their stories a special kind of Twist Ending. They likes using it so much it’s practically a signature element for their works. For some, it’s predictable and groan worthy, while others might like it. Imagine the surprise when, after finishing with the story, the twist isn’t there. Much like an Empty Room Psych, the author willingly removes that twist from their latest work to throw avid fans (and the Genre Savvy who expected It Was His Sled) for a loop.
Maybe they realized that using the trope was becoming predictable or worse, a crutch, and ditched it. Or perhaps he plotted a perfectly good waste from before even starting their first work just to give fans a huge surprise. And of course, maybe they just wanted (horror of horrors) to surprise the audience in order to entertain them. It doesn’t matter which it is, the net effect is the same: The plot twist for that story becomes the absence of an established twist. So, a Meta Twist.
For a moment, the Genre Savvy have become just as easy to surprise as the newbie. In fact, a newbie into the works/genre will be pleasantly surprised regardless. The avid fan will get the added bonus of not knowing what happens next. This can be a good way to keep the audience interested in their future stories.
- Scream: The guy that was really, really, ridiculously obviously the killer… was the killer! And actually another guy is also the killer! They screw it in even further by having him get fake stabbed to death at the start of act III.
- Rear Window: Alfred Hitchcock is known for making movies with shocking twists, in which what appears to be going on turns out to have been something entirely different. Rear Window has the perfect setup for this kind of thing, as the main characters spend the movie speculating based on limited evidence… but it turns out that, yes, the main character’s theory that his neighbor had murdered his wife was one hundred percent correct.
- House’s catchphrase is “everybody lies”, and indeed most episodes hinge on a patient or someone close to them having lied about some fact which turns out to be vital for a diagnosis. However, in the episode “DNR”, no one lies, and the team eventually just figure out the right diagnosis. House’s personal catchphrase throughout most of the first few seasons is “It’s never lupus”. Except for the two later-season episodes when it is. He drops the phrase after the second one.
- South Park fans know that Cartman is always, always doing good deeds for his own twisted reasons, which may range from Poke the Poodle to all-out Moral Event Horizon in scope. No matter how good he seems, fans and the characters can bet that he’s really being manipulative. This makes his subplot in “Major Boobage” something of a surprise, when he really does take in all the town’s cats (which had been recently outlawed) simply because he’s a cat lover and felt sorry for them.