"If you got a dead body and you think his brother did it, you're gonna find out you're right."
An outcome considered to be too obvious turns out to be what happened.
Suppose there has been a murder. There are only other two people in the house at the time. One acts mean and surly to the detective, doesn't treat the other house dweller well, and reveals he had both a motive and opportunity to kill the victim. The other housemate, by contrast, is very polite and helpful, and is visibly upset by the death.
A Genre Savvy
viewer would quickly conclude that the nice housemate is the murderer and the surly one is innocent. Why? Because the evidence against Mr. Surly is too obvious
, and the reader suspects a Red Herring
In many cases, the above description is exactly how it happens (see most episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
). However, sometimes the author pulls a fast one - it turns out Mr. Surly is guilty after all
! All that evidence against him, which the reader dismissed on the grounds of being too obvious, is actually correct and valid.
Thus is illustrated the essence of The Untwist. The author drops a large number of hints at the start of the story which a Genre Savvy
reader assumes to be obvious red herrings
, and thus is surprised when, later on, it turns out that the simplest, most obvious explanation was the correct one. Somehow, the author has managed to subvert the reader's expectations by not subverting their expectations
This technique obviously carries with it the risk that if it is not very well done, or the audience isn't Genre Savvy
enough to think there's a Red Herring
in play, they will not anticipate that there will be a twist. The Untwist can also fail if the audience is too Genre Savvy
, and will expect you to pull an untwist in advance
, although this is considerably more rare.
This technique is occasionally played with. In one fairly famous mystery book, the obvious person is guilty - but the obvious evidence
and way he committed the crime
is false: It was all part of an Evil Plan
based around "double jeopardy" laws which prevent people from being tried for the same crime twice. Basically, he planned to trick the police into using the false evidence at trial, which he would then easily dismiss.
Contrast the Shocking Swerve
, which pulls a twist out of nowhere
. Compare Meta Twist
, where an author who relied on a specific twist surprises the audience by averting
it. Not to be confused with The Unreveal
, unless you expected The Unreveal to be subverted. Truth in Television
: in Real Life
most homicide victims are killed by someone they knew, and, following Occam's Razor
, the most obvious suspect is usually the culprit. Compare Hidden in Plain Sight
No examples, please. Any plot development can become The Untwist to a sufficiently paranoid reader.