Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Too Many Twists?

I just finished a well-regarded thriller/horror book. I cracked it open a few days ago with great anticipation. When I joined Twitter and started engaging in that world, this author started popping up everywhere, and I’ve been meaning to get to one of their books, and I finally did.

The book itself was…okay. It was a little slow up front, and I found some of its chapter endings had the subtlety of an air horn. There’s only so many “little did I know, my life was about to get much worse” moments you can take in one book. Still, I stuck with it, and as I got into the back half of the book I found myself eagerly reading on, looking forward to the next chapter, needing to know: was the main character’s life built on a lie that she played no part in, or was this an honest-to-God haunting? If it wasn’t a haunting, then what was responsible for the strange occurrences in the house? It was effective, it was interesting, and I had my own suspicions about what was going on.

And then I approached the end. In the last twenty pages there are twists and turns than you find in the human intestine. This person did it! No, it was this person! But wait, it was really this person! And maybe there is a ghost—but no! Or, maybe!

To be fair, none of the twists was so far out of left field that I wanted to throw the book across the room, as the author did a nice job of setting up all the dominos over the course of the book. And perhaps I should have expected it—a blurb on the back cover declares the author to be “a master of the twist and the turn.” A good plot twist or two can result in some memorable, “Oh, shit!” moments that makes your spine straight and your jaw loose. A good plot twist is an adrenaline spike that compels you to read on to see how the protagonist is going to deal with this. In this case, however, I found myself going from, “Oh, shit!” to “Oh, come on.” The result was more than a little whiplash, and more than a little eye-rolling on my part. And so I put it to you: how many plot twists are too many?

3 Responses

  1. Hi Jeff,
    I’ve just read your successful book, Powerless, and need to compliment you on just enough twists to be straightforwardly simple in the end. My admiration comes from fear that my own writing is convoluted and unexciting. I’m glad for you that you found writing partners to exchange with along the way and that you kept at it to completion. Congratulations.

    (Just today I sent you my review. Now I’m going backwards to read your blog posts so far, so this is a bit out of sequence. It’s good to see how a real blog works. Susan has been talking to me about them, but this if my first exploration. Thank you for your example. I have a long way to go!)

  2. Thank you, Judy, and welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed Powerless and I do thank you for your very thoughtful review.

    “Impostor syndrome” is real. I have received many positive reviews and praise for Powerless and other things, but I always feel like my writing is uninspired and dull, and just not good enough. And yet we write, and we seek publication and readers, so maybe on some deeper level we know better.

    “Real blog”? Thank you! I don’t know that I post enough at this point for it to be a real blog, but I’m trying there, too!

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