First of all, WARNING: SPOILER ALERT, for anyone who plans on seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2 but hasn’t yet, this post CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!! So for anyone who doesn’t want to get spoiled, I’ve filled the first half of this post with a happy pony pic so you don’t accidentally stumble on it. But I will also be nice enough to illustrate that the main point of this post is about the gratification of pulling off a great sucker-punch twist to your reader in your writing, without getting too many people groaning “Hey wait a minuuuuuuuuuute!” So if you do plan on seeing Breaking Dawn Part 2, go see it first before you read this post. If you have already seen it, feel free to proceed past my lovely “pony curtain”.
So right, once again: SPOILER ALERT.
Here’s what happens: in the book, Breaking Dawn, the Cullens and their posse, and the Volturi and their guard, face off on a snowy field, but battle doesn’t actually take place. It gets very close to it, but right at the last minute, Alice and Jasper return to save the day. Certain defenses are exchanged, and a few sparks fly, but it doesn’t spill over into all hell breaking loose. Before that has a chance to happen, the deus ex machina of Alice and Jasper appear, with proof that not only has an instance of half-vampire half-human child like Bella and Edward’s daughter Renesmee occurred before, but that she won’t ever be a danger to those of the vampiric world, and that proof comes in the form of another half-vampire half-human by the name of Nahuel, born about a century-and-a-half previously.
After some verbal needling, the Volturi and their guard finally leave, with the implication that they’ll bear a grudge against the Cullens, but for now, they’ll leave them alone, and the Cullens are satisfied with that.
Kind of an anti-climax, wouldn’t you say? I thought so, anyway. Yes, Bella did get to put her shield into action, and there was some telepathic bitch-slapping, but no real fight to speak of broke out.
Then of course, we see that in the trailers for the film, a fight has broken out, with vampires running headlong at each other in epic battlefield style, chases through the forest as Jacob carries Renesmee away like Bella planned to have happen if there was no hope of a more peaceable end to the dispute, and lots of excellent tearing into with vampire-on-vampire action, including a nice touch with Edward swinging Bella around to deliver a powerful roundhouse kick. (Okay, first on Season 3 premiere of “My Little Pony” we have Shining Armor throwing his wife Princess Cadence at King Sombra like a projectile missile, now we have this–what is with husbands throwing their wives at their problems lately?)
Presumably, those of us who read the book knew that things wouldn’t escalate to this level of epicness, but we were all only too eager to see such unanticipated action, even if it did divert from the source material. We figured it was a bit of an extra kick to the already awesome event of seeing the last Twilight Saga film. So the Cullens and the wolf pack would get into a big fight with the Volturi and their guard, but all of them would come out relatively unscathed. I mean, it’d be audacious for the film adaptation to maim or worse, kill off characters who weren’t killed off in the book, right?
Or would it?
(cough, cough, Lavender Brown*)
While watching the film version, audiences have gone in aware that there is going to be some serious fighting that outshines what the book came up with (sorry Stephanie, but that was one of my pet peeves with the book that nothing escalated to the craziest possibility). Aro makes a speech about how they couldn’t be sure that Renesmee wouldn’t be a threat to their kind, and that it would be for the benefit of all if they fought today, rather than possibly die tomorrow. Then Alice and Jasper come in, presumably to save the day at last. The trickle of the ensuing battle starts with Alice growling at Aro that no matter what future she shows him, he won’t change his mind about moving in to attack the Cullens and their small battalion of witnesses.
Then she turns and signals to Bella that the time has come to send Jacob and Renesmee away to safety. Bella sends Jacob off, with Renesmee riding his back, and before Aro can do anything about this, Alice gives him a kick to the jaw that sends him flying. He lands easily however and, in anger, orders Alice taken away. Carlisle, fed up with trying to carry things out peaceably in the face of Aro’s arrogant cruelty, shouts at the Volturi to let Alice go and runs at them headlong. Aro runs out to meet him, and they come together in midair, and when Aro lands, we see Carlisle’s fallen down behind him–and Aro holds up Carlisle’s decapitated head.
When I saw this, I literally had the wind knocked out of me, like someone had indeed thrown me a sucker punch.
In my head I was stammering, But, but, but, that didn’t HAPPEN!
The battle broke out from there, a cry for blood and vengeance from the Cullens’ side, and in the wake of Carlisle’s destruction, Jasper and poor young Seth Clearwater follow him, and Seth’s big sister Leah too. But then so does the wicked Jane (torn apart by Sam Uley), soon after her brother. And Marcus, torn apart by the Romanian vamp supporters, Vladimir and Stefan. Caius, who executed Irina of the Denali Coven, has the favor returned to him by her sisters Tanya and Kate, along with the help of Garrett (seeing as how he’s dashingly involved romantically with Kate ;D).
Seeing that his own powerful coven is being literally torn to bits, Aro finally sees fit to enter the battle himself, only to meet his end getting thoroughly thrashed and ripped apart by Bella and Edward (marriage = teamwork!), and as Aro’s detached head rolls across the snow, we see his dead eyes watch as he’s put to the torch by Bella. It all goes up in flames and–
Record scratch moment.
We are returned back to the way everything was right before chaos broke out, with Alice and Aro standing there, Aro holding her hand and Alice looking resolutely into his face. And she says, “That’s your future.”
So, yes, that whole epic battle did not technically happen, but if you want to argue semantics and get into the theory of parallel universes, somewhere out there, (even though this is all in the literary/cinematic world) there is a universe where Aro did make the choice to proceed with fighting the Cullens, and that did actually happen.
Or we could ask Keanu Reeves–
But for the sake of argument, it was all just a peek into the crazy world of Alice being able to see into the future–setting aside the fact that Alice, as a rule, can’t see visions that involve the wolf pack, or visions involving Renesmee, more or less, which you might find you care even less about when you see that we get another glimpse into Alice’s second sight when at the absolute end she shares a vision with Edward of his and Bella’s future with Renesmee as an adult hooked up with Jacob (you know, the whole “in-law thing”–whatever, it’s cute, kind of, getting past the whole he-imprinted-on-her-as-a-friggin’-newborn-baby thing).
But getting back to the sucker punch twist: so the whole thing has you fooled for a second that all that carnage is actually taking place, and then oh, we’re thrown a big “Psyche!” Still, it did evoke quite a shock (I had tears in my eyes, and my heart was pounding). And at the same time, while it was a twist, it made sense within the context of the world. It wasn’t like all of a sudden the movie had them call upon a league of wizards to fight in the battle or something like that.
That’s what you want in a twist in your own writing, in a nutshell: something that evokes a strong gut reaction from the reader, without being so farfetched and out-of-nowhere that he or she just rolls his or her eyes and says, “What? Oh please.” That’s what makes it a good twist, is that it is unexpected, but at the same time, it makes sense for it’s being there in the course of the story. And even more delightful is when you’ve set it up just right (though of course in BD, this twist wasn’t exactly “set up” or anything, except maybe by the trailers) you can leave your reader flipping back through the pages (after they’ve gawped and gasped a bit) and be like, “Why didn’t I see that before?!”
Of course you could just…drop the old “death bomb”. (i.e. Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, Hedwig, Fred, Finnick Odair, Primrose Everdeen…actually these’re just characters I was angry about having died, but it still killed me, okay?)
But let’s not try to pretend that Stephanie Meyer, or Melissa Rosenberg (the films’ screenwriter) are up there amongst the lofty literary heights, but I this whole twist thing just totally stuck in my brain. I was still geeking out about it after I got into the car and headed home from the theater. So I thought I’d share. And I can’t deny, that in simplest terms, it was a very well-pulled-off twist.
And so with that, we say, “Farewell, Twilight.” For all of that that I enjoy watching and giggling at these movies, I certainly hope celluloid will deliver better in future. Like, is there hope for Stephanie Meyers’ The Host?
Or should I just be excited for MOAR HUNGER GAMES?
*In the book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I don’t believe Lavender Brown’s character dies, whereas in the Part 2 film, we do see her die. If you can’t tell, I was slightly peeved about this, but whatever she wasn’t a main character so I guess it doesn’t matter.