An Objective Plot Twist?

Anime-Geniuses-image-anime-geniuses-36425178-1280-720I’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.

Fate.stay.night.full.362824Another 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?

Perfect.Blue.full.464317

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?

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10 Responses to An Objective Plot Twist?

  1. Silvachief says:

    While this all depends on how you’re defining “plot twists”, i’m of the opinion that they do have an objective formula. There are good plot twists and bad plot twists, but how you react to them does not define them.
    Likewise, just because you can’t read the data on the disc doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t exist. If a man speaks in a forest, and there is no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong? Probably.

    • Lazarinth says:

      Haha, nice one. You’re right though, I would define plot twist as something created to mislead and then reveal with the intention to get a reaction. Even if it doesn’t get the reaction it’s still a twist just like a bad joke is still a joke despite the qualifier ‘bad’.

      Same with the game question, it really depends on how you define a game.

  2. Lambda says:

    To be honest, based on my own experiences, I evolved my point like you did. As someone spoiled on FSN, LB! and Ever17, it seemed obvious to me that you could still appreciate a twist without getting the reaction of it. However, I started thinking about my experience playing a dating sim. One review I read appeared to think something I thought was an excellently executed twist was just a typical part of a stereotypical character. So, “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?” Perhaps it still does exist. However, it would be a completely different thing if someone were to stare at it (i.e. acknowledge a plot point), and claim “that’s not a trap”. By the same token, someone could stare at what amounts to a large area of grass and say “that’s a trap!” This reaction would play into people’s genre conventions. For example, the dying mentor in anime could completely floor someone if they didn’t watch enough to notice the goalposts. However, it’s entirely possible that the death wasn’t a twist but simply a way to get from characterization point a to characterization point b to even the writer. Or if they aren’t familiar with the romance genre, the fact that the childhood promise was between the main characters. Does that suddenly make it not a twist to that person because the creator didn’t intend it? In that way, I guess the most important thing for me is being able to recognize a twist as a twist, even if you aren’t surprised/floored by it, or even if it isn’t a twist!

    In this way, people who recognize the game as a ‘game’ will acknowledge its existence and those that only recognize it as a CD will only think of its existence in the confines of it as a CD. (So similar to what Alex said above, I guess).

    • Lazarinth says:

      I find that it’s like asking if a dance is objective, the intent exist, the physical movements exist and yet someone might not call it dance if they deem it’s not as far as what qualifies as a dance for them. However, the intent or brain activity and physical movement still existed so one must ask if the physical history of what intention or actions were put into the hole or dance matter to what it is as it exists when some else observes it. I think the twist or dance exist as these steps.

      • Lambda says:

        Hm… I suppose that makes sense, although I may be thinking of a medium as more of a conversation, so it’s like flirting. The person intends to flirt. If they’re too subtle or the person has heard those lines before under different circumstances, then the other party’s not gonna think of it as flirting, while they still do. The two people come out of the experience with completely different opinions (“I made a great friend today!” vs “I completely failed!”). Does that mean the flirting didn’t happen? To the person who flirted, it certainly did. But to the person who didn’t detect the flirting, it was an overly friendly conversation. They may have went through the steps, but to the other person, there was no such action. To the first person that matters while to the second it doesn’t. So perhaps I think the physical action would only matter to those who created the action, or those who detect what happened.

      • Lazarinth says:

        Whether or not it mattered, the actions were still executed so in the end it comes down to how those people define flirting and if those action fit that definition. Because this intention is effecting the physical world a lot less than changing a physical object to communicate a twist, this situation is more ambiguous.

  3. Overlord-G says:

    Currently getting a class on philosophy in the second semester. Headaches galore.

    • Lazarinth says:

      That’s awesome, I’m glad you commented, I’ve seen you around the other blogs, including your own Yurination, and was wondering when you’d eventually show up on mine. Philosophy is a real mind twister but I find much of debates I have with people, including the one about the game, end up being just a problem of definition or semantics.

  4. Alex says:

    2deep4me.

    Okay, I’ll have a go but this’ll be a very shallow answer from a non-philosphy person. Maybe it would depend on how one defines the game. If it was defined by the ability to play, then it wouldn’t exist at that point in time. But if it was defined by the data encoded, the data would still be there, even if we couldn’t access it.

    Anyway, this is reminding me of “does something exist if we can’t perceive it?”, which is way out of my league, so I shall leave it there. Interesting to ponder, haha.

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