My novel, The Fortress at the End of Time, is about a betrayal. It is not a secret or a twist or a surprise. In fact, it is revealed within the first few paragraphs. I am in the habit of writing betrayals or twists in this fashion because I feel that, too often, books are not an ideal form for a sudden or unexpected twist. The format does not, to me, create an ideal space for a sudden reversal similar to what we see on screen. Even on screen, twists are generally more about the big reveal, itself, than whatever that thing revealed may or may not symbolize or indicate to the larger purpose of the narrative. The momentum of the story, and the meaning of the story, is moving in a direction, after all. A sudden shift in the flow is jarring, and breaks the wall of narrative expectations. Attention span is so fragile, and books are so easy to put down. They require a level of concentration that no other artistic medium I know demands.
The jarring aspect is why, I feel, video games are a better place for this technique (when used sparingly!). Some of my favorite dusty, musty old video games contain a sudden twist that breaks the narrative flow just so. The hypnosis of gaming, the repetitive acts and actions, leads gamers into a sort of haze of muscle memory. When betrayal comes, a twist of the plot—again, only if well done—breaks the momentum of the narrative and forces the player to think about events in the game, and the actions they’ve been virtually doing. It works because the player is part of the narrative, not distant from it.