Published: essays

Developing a concept for a story mechanic.

I have been entertaining the concept of a "pivot" in creating a story. In a very purist form, this would be a story where only one singular fantastical event happens around the end of act 2 but it's so Earth shattering to the characters it practically changes the genre, but is also the only fantastical thing to happen in the story.

Some keys to a successful pivot. The story prior to the pivot should be about as interesting as the story after the pivot (preferably only slightly less) so that the reader is slightly miffed at the anticlimax (if there was such a thread to follow) but interested in what happens next. I'd like for the story to be otherwise mundane other than this one singular happening coming out of some other kind of other realm, a glimpse into a more interesting world. Perhaps, if part of a larger set of stories, different pivots can tie in together in some way to paint a bigger picture of what is going on out there. It also has to be big enough to throw the original story off the rails a good amount.

In a sense, this concept can effectively shift what'd be at the start of many stories to the middle, so it's probably tough to pull off in practice, unless both sides of the story have at least some tinge of bizzareness. It can be hard to describe what that feeling is without just seeing it, but White Noise does it quite well. There is a baleful feeling threaded throughout the banal day to day life of the characters all through the first act of the book, and all of a sudden on an ordinary day it is flipped upside down by a malign outside influence, in this case a toxic spill that creeps over the land. The characters attempt an escape of sorts, and then just as suddenly are forced back into their everyday lives which are now stained with the knowledge of how fragile those boring days are. It even bakes all this into the structure of the book, the first and third acts are split into very short chapters, some of which only a page or two. The second is one long continuous section with no chapter breaks at all.

A few examples of works that include something similar to pivots.

White Noise as stated above, the bizzare and mysterious "airborne toxic event" occurs at a distance from the characters and shakes everyone down to their core.

Asteroid City with its sudden alien visitation sending everyone scurrying around like ants.

Most of David Lynch's catalog that includes anything that even slightly seems to tie into the same concepts as the Black or White lodge. The most clear-cut example is probably Lost Highway, where the most bizzare things that happen are the Mystery Man and the

A few quick concepts;

A mayor of a small town has odd political leanings, but things are going well during his reelection bid until he gets assassinated(?) /Disappears (he seems to have been stolen by someone from somewhere else, but clearly supernatural). His workers know he was abducted but can't tell anyone and get caught up in the cover up and investigation as suspects

A private eye is investigating the gruesome murder of prostitutes in his area, he is closing in on the killer (and it's pretty clear to the reader who did it) An angel trumpeting the end times appears before just him, he now has to somehow gel this vision of apocalypse with his day to day life.

A cult abducts one of the main characters in the middle of a teenaged drama.

The main character suddenly finds a mysterious object of unknown origin

The main character suddenly and permanently gets lost in a very odd part of town

I think a core part of this concept requires this "bolt from the blue" feeling. To be a pivot there cannot be much buildup, if any, it must be something that occurs suddenly from the realm of the gods down to the mortals, without them having any full comprehension of what it is.