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So You Want To / Mind Screw the Audience

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So you decided a simple storyline everyone gets isn't good enough, huh?

You want something more complicated and interesting? Is that it?

This article will show you how to create an interesting storyline that will interest audiences and mind screw them at the same time.

First off, Dream Sequences and Flash Backs are your friends. They're good to use if say your character (or characters) are amnesiac or maybe missing a few memories. It's also good to help explain things prior to the story line. Maybe they're Dreaming the Truth. Or, to mix things up, maybe their dreams are part clever foreshadowing that makes sense in hindsight, and part psychedelic crap that makes no sense whatsoever.


Second, be ambiguous. In other words, try leaving the audience to figure things out. Ship Tease can work nicely if done right to make character relationships ambiguous. Also don't explain every little thing in the story line, that would make things too obvious. Leave some things to the imagination or the audience. Another thing to remember is that the audience still has to understand what's going on while having numerous theories and questions still at hand. You should let the reader Choose Your Own Adventure, letting them interpret the storyline in several ways instead of just the one you had planned for them. It can open new possibilities from Sub-Versions to Parodies or even another adaptation or alternate retelling of the storyline (This can lead to a Cash Cow Franchise). This Loser Is You if you make the narrative too confusing, or too mind screwing. The key is balance and paying careful attention to the story at hand, making sure you know what you're doing and making sure to make sure the audience understands your work, yet still has questions and theories of their own. Am I screwing your mind yet?


Third, Breaking the Fourth Wall can be good depending on the narrative. It can screw people's minds even more and let the audience wonder if maybe there's someone else involved in the storyline. Then again... What if there's No Fourth Wall? That would cause even more mind screwing, but try not to over do it.

Breaking the Fourth Wall and use of Author Avatars screw minds even more. Comments by you the author/creator can also Break the Fourth Wall as well as provide clues or insight as to what's going on in your storyline or narrative. An Author Avatar can work to provide a similar effect (if using an Author Avatar see Arc Words) but if the Author Avatar is a character in the storyline (Say, The Hero or maybe The Chick) that can cause not only extra Mind Screw value but it'll give you a chance to live an alternate life you've never/might possibly never ever live (See Very Loosely Based on a True Story). Something that will work to a similar effect of an Author Avatar is a Narrator. These characters act as a medium between the author, the reader and the story's characters if the Narrator decides to intervene. They are not usually apart of the main cast and will only appear at certain points in the story.


Psychological Horror and Mind Screw can go hand in hand, making the genre even more confusing. Also see Through the Eyes of Madness and Mind Screw for more advice. However Mind Screw isn't limited to Psychological Horror alone. It can be included in other genres if you do it right. I'll put a few genres and how to make Mind Screw work (but do not feel obligated to follow all the writing. I'm just putting it up there as an example):

For Romance/Love Stories you could have one of the love interests have a Dark and Troubled Past or Split Personality. Perhaps one of the Love Interests or even the protagonist (The Hero) could have strange visions or FlashBacks of the past. Perhaps they could see their future with each potential Love Interest?

For Science Fiction you could involve computers and technology. Perhaps the computers could act on their own, or is there a Ghost in the Machine. Perhaps the machines are apart of a single consciousness and the characters must figure out how to stop it. Mind Control may or may not be involved.

For Mystery and Detective genres perhaps you could have a riddle solver who can't solve riddles or a villian who uses mind-screwing tactics to play with the detective's mind. Hypnosis and Mind Control may also be one of the criminal's tactics which he uses to get away with his crimes (if not caught by the detective/hero that is).

You can also screw people's minds by making characters have psychological problems (whatever genre the work fits under does not matter), the most common being amnesia (See Amnesiac Hero) but don't limit yourself to that alone, giving characters other problems like short term memory or a Split Personality can also work depending on the storyline at hand. There are also other numerous psychological disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (you should have something in the character's backstory trigger this), Erotomania (what most stalkers with crushes suffer from), Pica (this one isn't for those with weak stomachs...) and so on...

Lastly, with Mind Screw there is usually Fridge Horror or Fridge Logic hidden within. To apply either will take some deep thinking and heavy symbolism. Some good examples of Mind Screw with Fridge Horror and Fridge Logic mixed in will be listed below.

Am I screwing your mind yet or have I screwed it all up already?

I hope I have screwed all of your minds. I do love TV Tropes. As an aspiring writer myself, this site does give me ideas and advice. I hope I was help to all of you... Or am I?

Some good examples of Mind Screw include:

Good examples of Mind Screw with Fridge Logic/Fridge Horror:

DO NOT CONFUSE with Mind Rape.