I’ve had many conversations lately (debates really) on if it is possible to have an objective plot twist. In the beginning I was on the side that you could, that there is a set formula in order to achieve such an effect in a story and that the author’s intent was all it needed. However, I changed my mind (I did this a few times throughout this on-going discussion) when considering that everyone reacts to things differently depending on the context by which they experience it. Let’s face it, if you have an assumption through being mislead in a story and then the story turns that assumption on its head, most people would consider that a twist. However, this is assuming that this ‘turning on its head’ caught the receiving party unaware or by surprise, which it could easily fail in doing through lack of assumptions, accurate guessing or simply spoilers, making them believe this was not a twist. This was based mainly on the grounds that the ‘the twist’ was ‘the reaction’, the shock or surprise, and if you were given the information of this before watching the story, for you that part of a story wouldn’t give you the reaction a twist normally would. Because a reaction to a twist is different for each person this would make a twists only subjective, right? Well… not really.
Another of my friends, a philosophy major made me realize that I was confusing the ‘twist’ with the reaction the twist gets. It took a few analogies from him to make me realize this, including one about a jack-in-the-box that really didn’t make sense for me despite him thinking it to be the most obvious. Finally he said “If someone created a trap, say by digging a hole and covering it up with a mat of grass or whatever surrounded the hole, but no one fell for it by dropping through it, does that mean the hole, the trap, doesn’t exist?” Of course not, there is still a hole in the ground with a misleading covering to make it look normal. This was the first party’s actions to manipulate an area to get a reaction and even if the reaction wasn’t achieved the area was still objectively changed for that purpose. In both of these cases there is one party who manipulates the physical world in order to get a reaction from another, and even if that other party fails to get this reaction the physical world is still changed, the trap (hole in the ground) still exists just like the twist (physical media or text) still exists. So, I thought, does a twist being a failure make it not a twist or simply a failed twist, or (in the case of spoilers) just a ruined twist? Like a joke, does a bad or failed joke, make it not a joke?
The discussion became a little more philosophical after someone brought up the question;
‘If a CD had a game on it and that game existed nowhere else, but the technology to play that CD no longer existed, would that game still exist?’
What do you think is the right answer?