Plot Twists Are Stupid

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Jan 5, 2020 12:00:00 PM


Story twists are memorable. They're a shock. Audiences are settled, comfortable, and aware of a narrative's established rules, be they near to our reality (you can't jump a skateboard over a gorge!) or representing a heightened reality (some people see ghosts everywhere!).

Then, a twist. Existing rules are suddenly broken. Fast math forces an audience to re-contextualize what they've understood thus far. All at once. Immediately. As the story continues around them.

But can a story dependent upon a twist endure beyond that moment of shocking re-contextualization? Can it endure repeat engagements?

Plenty of marvelous stories unfold with additional elegance upon a second or third experience. Repeat audiences notice obvious clues. They spot clever setups, invisible the first time. When the twist now approaches, it's clear as day. Perhaps they even feel dread? The odorous tragedy is pungent from miles off and we watch through cracked fingers as the Shakespearean hammer comes down, as we know it must, and always will.

If the story's desired effect of tragic dread is only achieved on Experiences No. 2-Infinity, why does the plot twist need to be hidden from sight during Experience No. 1?

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This Had Better Be Good

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Nov 15, 2019 3:24:52 PM


When do we know a prize is earned? When can we recognize what life gives, and if it's good, and if it's correct? Often, I wake from sleep at night, and my brain sweats with grandmaster strain.

Half-remembered songs. Miniature dreams folded like wrinkled currency into flighty fantasies and harrowing dooms. And I wonder—what is all this? There's got to a purpose here, in all this waking suffering.

The cruel shift-manager using his enemies for ottomans makes the spoken purpose clear—it's preparation. It's rehearsal. It's my gray computer testing scenarios. There, I can grow flush with the imagined nightmares and still live to wonder further, unharmed in the act.

But as my deadly mind pulls on a nine-foot needle to stitch up some hypothetical horrors, I also imagine hope. Good things. The horrors come easy. Those monsters are death on two legs. To consider hope, though, is another question—can life correctly give us something good?

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We Are Never Taught to Draft and Iterate Our Work

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: May 29, 2019 12:06:00 PM


Nobody taught you how to self-edit 

Ancient proverbs tell us stories of men and fishermen, and the craft and the hunger that separates them.

If somebody could teach me to the skill of actively draft and self-edit, would I eat for a lifetime? In a creative capacity, why do we focus on production instead of iteration? Why are we troubled by our ramshackle first attempts?

I don't imagine any of us assume a work of art, or writing, or any creativity will spring forth fully-formed. The rightful question is: why are we so diligently schooled in the craft of creation, but not iteration? 

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The Sincerity of Simple Writing, in Business and in Life

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: May 22, 2019 12:00:00 PM


The audience deserves sincerity 

Communication is writing's basic challenge. Can you, the writer, communicate your thoughts to an audience? It may be a sonnet, meant for an audience of one. It may be a garbage disposal installation manual, meant for an audience of twenty-thousand.

It may be a blog post addressing simplicity and sincerity in writing, meant to detail a writer compensating a reader for their time.

Straightforward, honest writing is a craft you must learn.

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Being Paid More is the Ultimate Diversity and Inclusion

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Apr 23, 2019 12:00:00 PM


Never allowed in

Don't tell me about the ratio of men/women at your company (it still isn't high enough). Don't tell me how many people of color are on your executive team (there still aren't enough).

Money is the special club of lawless freakishness, unique to poison-brained.

Paying everyone more is the ultimate diversity and inclusion policy. Money honors contribution and demonstrates trust. Today, money is: allowing everyone in.

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Unhitching From Our Usual Tethers

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Apr 23, 2018 8:02:47 PM



I, like I assume most people would, used to daydream in the afternoon at work when my wandering mind became bored. Those aren't pleasant moments anymore. Instead of fanciful thoughts, I instead take the time to remember my fiance screaming as she suffocated during the trip down the highway to find help. I remember myself screaming at nothing in a supermarket parking lot the following afternoon. I remember leaving the hospital after she died ten days later and walking to my car to drive home in the snow. My daydreams' chief exports are death and screaming.

In the first week following her death, I couldn't form clear thoughts. I could not, and still cannot, recall complete short-term memories. I would stop breathing as if I had suddenly realized I'd neglected a phantom injury, gushing silently. I don't remember much of this time yet. I know I will someday. The eventuality terrorizes me.

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Devil May Cry 4 Turns 10 Years Old

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Jan 29, 2018 10:16:04 AM

dmc4-box-ps3.jpgCool coats and motorcycle swords.

Hello! It’s me, professional internet storytelling expert, Alex Crumb. Today is the tenth anniversary of the million-selling PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 hard-action game, Devil May Cry 4, developed and published by Capcom.

I love this game. I drove an hour through a snowstorm to buy it and ran my car into a ditch on the return trip. A guy with a tractor pulled my car back onto the road. I played Devil May Cry 4 that afternoon with a white, imported Japanese DualShock 3 before they were available in the US. I guess that anecdote settles which date I ended up on certain watchlists!

Ten years? Wow! By my measure, absolutely everything and precisely nothing has changed in that time. Video games are still cool and video game players remain self-conscious about the comparatively uncool demeanor they must re-inhabit upon returning to the real world. That’s a  frustration I’m certain a lot of people share, but I’ll tell a story in a moment about how it’s not entirely true.

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Burnout Paradise Turns 10 Years Old

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Jan 22, 2018 7:36:08 PM

burnout-paradise-ps3-box.jpgBetter to burn out than fade away.

Hello! It’s me, professional internet storytelling professional, Alex Crumb. Today is the tenth anniversary of the million-selling PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 action-driving game, Burnout Paradise, developed by Criterion Games and published by Electronic Arts.

I love Burnout Paradise. I 100% completed the game twice on PS3; once before the trophy patch, once after. I love the Burnout series. I completed Burnout 2: Point of Impact (3 out of 5 stars) on GameCube. I ripped Metallica’s Master of Puppets onto my Xbox in college and listened to it on repeat while playing the road rage mode in Burnout 3: Takedown (5 out of 5 stars). Maybe Burnout 3 gave me appendicitis in 2004? Medical science is a mystery.

Ten years? Wow! It’s amazing the restraint games from this era demonstrate, comparatively speaking. Burnout Paradise is a dead-ahead arcade racer. Self-confidence trembles and busts from its core locomotion. Its monstrous video-frictions crackle at each speed-boost, at each arcing turn, and at each concussive collision. Its micro-moment design remains unmatched ten years on, even alongside developer Criterion Games’ later, larger-budget efforts with Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit (4 out of 5 stars) and Need for Speed: Most Wanted (4 out of 5 stars).

Burnout Paradise was Criterion’s tipping point. It was their high-definition playground; a demo tape for the big time. But make no mistake, it was also Electronic Arts’ beta test for the coming decade of game development where any time a player spent in a game was a victory, for good or for ill. The line from Burnout Paradise to Star Wars Battlefront II ($ out of 5 stars) is straighter than you might believe.

So, let’s examine this moment in history.

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The Silver, the Brass, the Blood, and the Chorus—Part 6

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Nov 12, 2017 12:00:00 PM


Part 6: Black Hole

The formless mystics wrote lifelong screeds describing their journeys among the black holes. Fused to spacetime and abusive toward human relativity, the hearsay surrounding those fists of gravity were a deliberate mystery.

One day, a human soul grasped their function. Then a face of cruel form and size spat back and the function was given up.

Upon that soil, and that mystery, and those wells of interdimensional force, Meridian built a foundation.

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The Silver, the Brass, the Blood, and the Chorus—Part 5

Written by: Alex Crumb | Follow on: Twitter, Facebook

Published: Nov 11, 2017 11:49:53 AM


Part 5: Reliquary

Rostand was left to the task. The aged easterner loped the palaces halls. She halted at certain doors. She kept still long enough to decide, then proceeded on.

Through one door and another, Rostand led the others deeper. They listened for the hidden lures in quiet rooms. Rostand was always the first to notice the cracks in the wall, leading to hidden spaces in the architecture. They filed down a narrow staircase. They inhaled to slip into gaps within the walls themselves. Suna struggled. He knocked apart the flaking materials with his bulk.

The secret rooms were vaults. Rahz checked the walls for where they were sealed in ages past. The antiques were left entomed, standing free in delicate arrangement about the floors.

Each lay dormant, either drained by time or hushed by a word.

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