The best writer-oriented event I attended at Mancunicon was also the first I went to – a panel on plot twists on the Friday afternoon. Moderated by Gillian Redfearn, Publishing Director at Gollancz, it also featured authors Susan Bartholomew, Charles Stross, David Tallerman, Chris Wooding and Sebastien de Castell. All involved were on fine form, being both entertaining and insightful. Among their top writing tips were:
A good twist should be preceded by a bunch of stuff you can look back at afterwards and say “I should have known” (CW).
Be careful that your twist doesn’t ruin the meaning of what came before (DT).
Be careful your twist doesn’t undermine the main character – Poirot should have noticed what was happening in Murder on the Orient Express, so making it a twist undermined his credibility as a smart character (GR).
A good twist doesn’t come too soon or too late – usually about two-thirds of the way through the story (SB).
A good twist gives the narrative a different meaning (DT).
A twist that makes everything before it a lie or irrelevant is a bad twist, as readers feel like they’ve been wasting their time (CW/DT).
A twist should be seasoning, not something the whole story relies on to work (SdC).
The further you twist things, the more likely that you just won’t be in your genre any more (CW).
Your twist needs to be consistent with the setup earlier in the work – plausible but not predictable (CS).
Cram a thousand sci-fi writers and fans into a single hotel and what do you get? A fantastic weekend, it turns out.
I spent Easter weekend at Mancunicon, aka Eastercon 2016, one of the biggest UK science fiction and fantasy conventions of the year. It was a great weekend, with interesting talks and panels, lots of fantastic people, and a real ale bar to make up for the terrible hotel beer. I listened to mathematician Colin Wright talk about the maths of juggling, lawyer Lilian Edwards talk about how the Marvel universe explores privacy and identity, and a whole bunch of authors talk about plot twists.
That’s not to mention the late night bar conversations, on everything from the new series of Daredevil to the peril of bees to abandoning author R. A. Smith naked in the streets of Helsinki (it made sense when we were drunk).
If you’ve never attended a con then I heartily recommend it. If you’re in the UK then I particularly recommend Eastercon – I’ll certainly be back next year. Reading is more fun if you can enthuse about the books with others later. Writing is a lonely business, and meeting others in your field can be sanity saving. Frankly, any time you can spend with people who share your passions is great, and that’s what this was.
Huge thanks to the volunteers who ran the con.
I’ll finish with a few pictures from the hotel I stayed at. It was a couple of miles from the convention, out in Trafford. This is a somewhat neglected area of Manchester, and I expected a cheap hotel catering to football fans. What I’d forgotten was that it was near the BBC’s media city complex, and so the hotel catered to creative types. Which leads to this…