Scene Prompt #47: So Frustrated

You can pick any scene for this prompt, written already or not, but it might be easiest to pick a scene that you know results in a clear twist. But all scenes should be somewhat surprising, so any scene will do. We’re going to make that twist as twisty as it can be.


Through contrast.

A surprise is a frustrated expectation.

I expound on this definition by extracting three rules for creating and evaluating surprises:

Rule #1: Expectation SHOULD happen.

Rule #2: Frustration COULD happen. There is evidence–sometimes perceived by an audience only in hindsight or on a second viewing–that the surprise is plausible.

Rule #3: There is a place where the EXPECTATION is ALWAYS the strongest. . . . in the split second before the climax.

Seeing a reversal in terms of an abrupt shift enables you to mine your material for the best surprises by using what has come before as a resource. The implicit question, “Opposite of what?” allows you to find surprises that emanate from the expectations and setups in a scene.

Jim Mercurio

So, if you’re drafting, decide on your twist climax, then create expectation of its opposite in the beginning, plan the scene’s middle shifts, back and forth, getting more and more extreme, before–wham!–big reveal of the twist climax at the end.

If you’re revising, then identify the scene’s twist climax, where it set up expectation, where it shifts back and forth . . . Strengthen them. Escalate them. And if you can’t find them in the scene, add them in.

Got it?

Write the scene.

Book that inspired this prompt


That’s it for me!

What about you? What’s your process for writing reversals? Tell us in the comments!

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