The Octopus of Suspense is Available Now!

The Cephalopod Arrives

The Octopus of Suspense CoverMy new book, The Octopus of Suspense, is available to buy on the Kindle story now. It costs $1.99 / £1.31 and anyone with a kindle or kindle app on their phone/iPad/android/PC can download from the links below.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

For more information, read on.

 

About the Book

From the blurb:

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Owen Adams is a writer and blogger with a love for short fiction. He is the author of the Time Travel stories; Christmas Past and Time Trial.

The book collects stories that were previously part of my Fiction Friday project, but they’ve since been revised and smartened up a lot. I’m really proud of these stories, and I think they really work well together.

 

The Stories

The collection contains eight stories:

 

Customs:

Visitors to must first path through immigration; smugglers included.

The Confession:

Nobody’s a saint in prison, but sometimes the worst crimes go undiscovered.

Dark Thoughts:

Doctor White has a reputation as a healer, but his treatment can be a little unconventional.

The Cat:

One predator watches another from the safety of his bedroom window.

Hope:

In the depths of space there is a warship, far from home, but its mission is made uncertain when an unexpected message arrives.

Identity Theft:

No lock is perfect, even the best needs a key.

The Box:

Tim wants nothing more than the box in the window, now it is within his reach.

Motivation:

A troubled pulp writer struggles with an elusive story that feels a little too close to home.

 

Why the Late News?

If you’re reading this now, you might be a little surprised. After all, Octopus has actually been on sale since the wee hours of this morning. So, why am I only getting around to announcing it now?

Honestly, I forgot that KDP didn’t have a scheduling feature. It was originally planned to start selling on Friday, then I could spend today promoting the freebies, and tomorrow focusing on the new book. When I uploaded Christmas Past, I had a couple of days hold up for KDP’s review phase, so the plan with Octopus was to upload on Wednesday night but schedule it to go on sale Friday morning. But you can’t do that, and so I ended up just giving myself a very busy Thursday.

 

Don’t Forget the Free Books

A new book isn’t the only thing happening today, you can also get two short stories from Amazon FREE until Saturday. These are Sci-Fi / Time Travel stories in the spirit of Sliders or Stargate and they’re a lot of fun.

Check them out here!

Two Free Time Travel eBooks for your Kindle!

Free Books!

There is no better time for a writer than the day you release a new book. The Octopus of Suspense was uploaded to Amazon last night, and the review phase is no over. I’ll be posting more information about that later, but before that I’d like to give you my usual new-book freebies. Both my Timewasters stories are going to be free on the kindle store until saturday. If you have a kindle or the app on your phone/iPad/android, then you can grab these books absolutely free, right now.

Check them out:

Christmas Past Owen AdamsChristmas Past – Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Time travel is easy, getting home is the hard part.

Annie and her friends are used to harsh conditions, but a Victorian winter still comes as a shock. They have a job to do, but it isn’t long before they stumble upon a corpse buried in the snow, and a new mystery to solve.

time trial book cover
Time Trial – Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk

Time travel is easy. Choosing where to stop is a little harder.

Harbour is a pretty nice place, but Annie and her friends are breaking the law just by being there. Now they must overcome an alien legal system and a paranoid politician to prove their innocence.

Unfortunately, they are all guilty.

 

Countdown to Octopus: New Book Celebrations Begin!

The Octopus of Suspense will be released on Friday.

This will be my first new book since 2012, it is a collection of Short Stories previously published on this blog, and it is a book I’m very proud of. I’ll be posting direct links to buy the book on Friday. Until then, here’s some information about the book:

The Octopus of Suspense Cover
Arriving on Friday.

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Owen Adams is a writer and blogger with a love for short fiction. He is the author of the Time Travel stories; Christmas Past and Time Trial.

As usual, I’ll be celebrating the release of a new book by making some of my other books free for a few days. I’ll be posting more information about that tomorrow!

Watch this Space!

Owen

Writing a Blurb for a Short Story Collection

Book store shelvesIs there a more frightening word in the self-publisher’s vocabulary than blurb? If you’ve been experimenting with publishing eBooks for any length of time, you’ve probably felt this dread. You’ve written the book, polished it up, secured a fancy cover design. Everything seems so perfect, then it’s time to upload your shiny new book to Amazon and you it a roadblock. The well prepared of you probably took the “Product Description” box into account, but if you’re the seat-of-the-pants, it’ll all turn out right on the night type, like me, perhaps not.

I don’t know what it is about writing a blurb that sets my teeth on edge. It probably has something to do with my aversion for self promotion. I am of the generation that grew up on the internet, I had a deep-seated loathing of spammers and affiliate marketers, and anything that puts me in the same box as them is something I want to avoid. Unfortunately, I’ve chosen a career path where a certain amount of self promotion is needed. (For more on overcoming these hurdles, I can really recommend reading Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing.) For some reason, writing a blurb brings out the same loathing in me.

It probably shouldn’t. Something spammers don’t realise (or won’t acknowledge) is that there are places where it is acceptable to self-promote, and places where it isn’t. Some examples; I hate writing my Amazon author page almost as much, but this is a perfectly acceptable place to shamelessly self promote. Your author page is a small corner of the internet that is entirely about you, and anyone that visits that page does so because they want to hear more about your achievements. Go nuts! On the other hand, logging in to twitter and sending promotional messages to random tweeters, clogging up their feeds, unacceptable.

The first step to writing your blurb is acknowledging that it is an acceptable place for promoting your work. Chances are, anyone reading your blurb is already interested in your book. You want to present it in the best possible light to sell a copy, and the reader wants to know if it’s the sort of book they’d be interested in. It’s an interaction between two business partners, and if you write your blurb effectively and honestly, both parties will probably end up satisfied.

So, why do blurbs feel so uncomfortable to write? Probably because we are trained from a young age not to blow our own trumpets. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a little awkward. There’s a reason the publishing industry hires marketers and PR men to promote books, they have no connection to the work itself and their only motivation is to sell the product. Personally, that’s a little too mercenary for me. I want to write a blurb that accurately reflects the book I’m trying to sell and develops the right audience. At the same time, I don’t want to be insecure about it and sabotage sales.

Octopus Cover
Coming Soon!

With The Octopus of Suspense, (publishing this week) I have an extra little problem. Octopus is a short story collection. It’s a good book and I’m very proud of it, but it doesn’t have a single plot I can try and sell an audience on. Worse still, it doesn’t cover a single genre. In fact, there are few things the stories have in common. This cuts down a lot of the easiest parts of writing a blurb, and forces me to really focus on the key facts. There are eight stories in the collection, they are around 1000 words each, they each follow a distinct character, they were originally published weekly but have been revised a polished for the collection. The problem is, of course, that these are hardly what you would call selling points. But, I feel the best approach is to present these facts clearly and honestly, without undermining the book. In time, if the book is good, it will sell itself.

Here’s my current blurb for The Octopus of Suspense. 

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Owen Adams is a writer and blogger with a love for short fiction. He is the author of the Time Travel stories; Christmas Past and Time Trial.

It’s a little clumsy and will probably be treated to a rewrite before I finally hit the big red button, but I think it’s fair. It highlights what I think are the selling points, teases a couple of the stories and tells a little about the origin of the collection. I chose not to refer to the stories in this collection as “Flash Fiction,” though they certainly meet that definition, partly because I don’t like the label much and partly because I think it would place them in a budget box that they don’t deserve to be in. However, a lot of readers don’t enjoy stories this short, so I made sure to include the wordcount.
Your blurb is important, but it isn’t as important as writing a good book. The world isn’t exactly meritocratic, but the internet is forever. If your book is genuinely worth the time, it has a good chance of finding its audience. A blurb should be a tool and never an obstacle. It should describe the book honestly, but not too honestly. Don’t tell your prospective readers that you are the new Shakespeare, it will only lead to disappointment. But don’t sell yourself short either. If you’ve written an exciting story with a twist in the end, sell it. The better you communicate your story’s strengths, the better your chance of finding a reader who loves what you have to offer.

My Top 5 Plot Twists.

I was pretty mean to plot twists recently, but even while I was writing the post I found myself thinking of some of the better twists I’ve seen over the years. Everyone loves a good Top 5 list, so here are a few of my favourite unexpected developments. Needless to say, this list contains spoilers.

Planet Of the Apes Ending5) Planet of the Apes

This would be higher up the list, but I think a modern audience would probably see this coming. The Planet of the Apes movie outstrips the novel it was based upon by transforming it into a post-apocalyptic nightmare tale. After a group of astronauts land on a desolate world, they are surprised to discover it is inhabited by primitive humans, ruled by intelligent talking apes. Melodramatic Captain Taylor desperately tries to convince the apes he comes from a world where man is the dominant form of life, only to discover that he has actually been on Earth all along. The image of the Statue of Liberty, broken on the beach, is one of the defining cinematic images of the 20th Century.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd First Edition Cover4) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Agatha Christie’s Masterpiece, and probably her most divisive book. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd follows a retired Poirot as he investigates a tale of blackmail, murder, suicide and good old fashioned British scandal. The writing is Christie at her best, but the conclusion is an absolute stunner as Poirot points his Belgian finger firmly at the book’s narrator. The way in which Christie hides this from the reader, while keeping the narrator (mostly) honest is absolutely amazing.

Enders Game Book Cover3) Ender’s Game

It is a real shame that one of the most original, gripping science fiction novels ever written, could be written by a man so small. While I will no longer support Card financially, I will begrudgingly acknowledge that I love Ender’s Game. When the movie arrives, I’m sure a whole new generation will be blown away by one of the best plot twists in the genre. Sadly, I will not be among them. Following the young Ender Wiggins as he begins his training at Battle School, Ender’s Game takes us inside a boarding school where the only purpose is to train the perfect soldier. As he gets older, Ender begins to participate in grander battle simulations until he is training to command the entire fleet. The ruthless Battle School training kicks in on Ender’s final exam, when he succeeds in wiping out the enemy entirely. Only then does Ender discover that he has been controlling a very real fleet. The repercussions of this accidental genocide would be explored further in Card’s novels, but Ender’s Game is the best expression of this universe.

Scene from Knights of the Old Republic2) Knights of the Old Republic

I know, I know, video games aren’t know for their great storytelling, and that’s usually for good reason. Narrative in Video Games is a very different sort of beast, taking a back seat to gameplay, but when it’s done well it can really surprise you. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a game ahead of its time. Build by Bioware who would later adapt a lot of the gameplay for its Mass Effect series, Knights of the Old Republic is a vast Roleplaying Game. You take the role of a young anonymous soldier aboard a republic cruiser. When the ship is attacked, you are forced to evacuate on a planet controlled by the Sith. From there you form a party of the usual Star Wars cliches, the rogue, the alien, the robot, the princess, and start trying to save the Galaxy from the bad guys.

Video Game narrative is used very well here to create a two-layered story. The main plot focuses on survival, it is your key drive. Fight enemies and break into buildings to find what you need to reach safety. The second layer is more subtle and builds from smaller plot points as you play, it tells the story of your enemy, two Sith Lords, a master and apprentice, who fought the Jedi and disappeared. Years later, the apprentice overthrows his master  and returns to destroy the Jedi. As the player reaches the climax they discover, in a plot twist that sounds a lot more predictable on paper, that they is the second Sith Lord and their memories have been wiped.

It sounds a little cheesy, and it’s a story that wouldn’t work on the screen, but Knights of the Old Republic is a vast game. It takes around 40 hours to complete, and most of the back story is provided to the player through immersion and conversation. Details that seem irrelevant all contribute to a plot twist that is genuinely surprising.

Scene from Fight Club1) Fight Club

No plot twist list is complete without Fight Club. In a manner much like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Fight Club turns the audience’s expectations on their head and introduces the unreliable narrator to the mainstream public. In the years that followed, Fight Club’s story of the split personality anarchist would be aped repeatedly and badly, but the original film still holds up very well.

After a bout of insomnia, our hero meets Tyler Durden, a laid back sort who makes a living selling soap made from a liposuctionists’ waste fat. Together they start a network of underground fighting clubs that soon become the basis of a subversive terrorist organisation. It all comes to a head when Durden disappears, and in the course of tracking him down, the protagonist discovers that he and Tyler Durden are one and the same.

That Fight Club spawned a lousy genre should not be held against it, it is a great film with a twist that offers more every time you see it.

So, those are my favourite plot twists. Feel free to argue with me in the comments.  

Five Great Science Fiction eBooks.

I have always loved a good science fiction yarn, and if you’re reading this blog then you probably feel the same way. The eBook revolution is upon us, but it can be difficult to sort through the dross. With that in mind, I present you with my list of five excellent Sci-Fi stories available on the kindle store. If any of these take your fancy, I’ve provided links straight through to Amazon.

5) Lacuna: Demons of the Void – David Adams

Lacuna Demons of the Void book coverLacuna is a novel that feels classic and brand new at the same time. It belongs very much to the Star Trek mould, following the exploits of a starship captain in Earth’s future. When Lacuna sets itself apart is in a more nuanced interpretation of that future. After the planet is attacked by a mysterious enemy, mankind sets out into the stars to strike back, but this is a humanity far from united. Back home, the planet is divided into massive power blocks that have enough problems without alien invaders.

The Lacuna story does not end here, and Adams’ follow up novels are even better, but this is a great opening chapter and really worth picking up.

4) The Time Machine – H.G Wells

H.G Wells The Time Machine CoverH.G Wells classic story of a lone time traveler. This novella is absolutely one of the finest time travel stories ever written. It features all the classics of the genre; a fish out of water protagonist, a troubling future, commentary on the human condition, and even a couple of good plot twists along the way. For a writer of his time, Wells remains unbelievable readable, and this is one of his best stories. An absolute must for any Time Travel lover.

As a bonus, the Enriched Classics version (linked above) is currently free!

3) Yesterday’s Gone: Season One – Sean Platt and David Wright

Yesterday's Gone Season One Book CoverThe eBook market is a great place to try out serialised fiction. With Yesterday’s Gone, Sean Platt and David Wright have really owned the format. A thrilling story that owes a lot to Stephen King and Left Behind (without the crazy religious element), Yesterday’s Gone is one of my favourite books in ages. Originally released in a series of short parts, the collected Season One ebook is definitely the best way to start experiencing this story. It begins when the majority of the world’s population suddenly vanished. From there, an eclectic group of characters all over America are gradually drawn together. The story doesn’t end with Season One, but there’s a lot in this eBook and you’ll definitely be left wanting more. There are a lot of great books on this list, but this is the one that most exploits the eBook format to tell a great story.

2) Dune – Frank Herbert

Dune Kindle Edition CoverI should probably apologise for putting Dune on this list. After all, it’s a classic that you can probably find cheaper in any second hand bookstore in the english speaking world. However, it’s a decision I stick by. Dune is one of my favourite books, but it’s hardly an easy read, and it’s a weighty tome that doesn’t lend itself well to reading on the train. Since picking up the kindle, I’ve really enjoyed re-reading Dune for the first time in a very long time.

Most people will have some familiarity with Dune by now, but unless you’ve read the book then you haven’t really experience it. Set on the hostile desert world of Arrakis, Dune follows the messianic path of Paul Atreides. The son of a noble household, Paul is cast out into the sands of Arrakis and must lead the savage Fremen who live there in order to save the planet from the vicious Harkonnen family. It sounds complicated, and it is, but it has a lot in common with the complex mythic worlds of Tolkien and George R. R. Martin.

1) Wool – Hugh Howey

Wool by Hugh Howey CoverWool doesn’t need much promotion these days. What started off as a self published short story has become a smash hit since then, with talk of a movie adaptation on the horizon. I’m going to promote it anyway, because from the first page until the last, I enjoyed Wool. In the future, the last of the human race lives in the Silo. This vast bomb shelter is little more than a pill box on the surface, but descends deep under the surface. Within this vault lives an entire society with a single giant staircase the only route from the bottom to the top. The law is harsh, but there is one crime more serious than any other, wanting to leave.

The book is actually comprised of a series of smaller books the become longer until the fifth and final. We open with a great little short story that would have made Philip K. Dick proud, from there Howey builds on his initial story and creates a truly great fictional world. This is the kind of science fiction that just isn’t being written anymore, and I hope Wool leads to a comeback.

That’s all folks. These are the five eBooks that I think every Sci-Fi fan should have on their eReaders. If you’d like to make your own suggestions or just disagree with me, you can leave a comment. 

The Octopus of Suspense is almost ready.

Octopus Cover
Coming Soon!

Good morning, folks. How are you all enjoying your Monday so far?

It’s the start of a very special week for me, because I’ve just started the final preparations on my new eBook. The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight Flash Fiction stories that were previously posted to this blog as part of my Fiction Friday project. You can still read these here for now, but the eBook versions have been polished up and made all pretty for your kindles. I’m not planning on taking the originals down from the blog at the moment, but if I decide to enrol the eBook in the KDP Select programme, they’ll be temporarily removed. So enjoy them while they’re free, folks!

I’ve got the almost-final manuscript for the collection loaded on to my kindle now. I’m spending the rest of the day giving the book one last read through, catching any mistakes that have slipped through the net. After I’m happy with the text, the rest of the week will be spent making sure the formatting is fine on kindle, iPad, PC etc. Then the last job is to copy in the front matter, sort the cover and metadata, write a blurb (my least favourite job) and make sure it all looks professional.

All things going according to plan, it should hit Amazon next week.

If you’d like to check out some of my other work, hit my Amazon author pages:

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

The 12th Doctor: Predictions

Capaldi With Beard
I’d love to know if Capaldi was cast before or after Moffat saw this photo.

The waiting is over at last. A week ago, the BBC took time out if its busy schedule to announce the the identity of the next Doctor. It was that middle-aged white bloke whose name we all heard days before. This isn’t bad news, but it does throw my predictions out. Of course, it wasn’t a total waste of time. We were also treated to half an hour of very minor celebrities making vague remarks about the show as if they’d never seen it before and were desperately trying to up their profile. And Peter Davison was there briefly. If you want to see how this very special programme was made, the BBC have kindly written up a “Making of…” piece here.  The magic of Television is alive and well!

A new Doctor is an exciting time. The show’s ability to replace its main star has kept it fresh over the last fifty years, and always draws in an audience. Peter Capaldi seems like a good choice for the role. He is older than ten of the eleven previous actors cast in the role, but still has a sense of kinetic energy about him that suits the role. Some have baulked at the thought of an older Doctor, but Matt Smith is only 30 and all his Doctor seems to do these days is mope, sulk and grumble like an old man anyway. How much worse can it get?

It won’t be a complete regeneration for the show though, because showrunner Steven Moffat is still very much on board. I’ve discussed the unique stamp he’s leaving on the show before, but now the next Doctor has been cast, I’m here to give you my very special 12th Doctor predictions.

The 12th Doctor’s Costume:

The Sixth Doctor and TARDIS
“Patchwork quilts are cool.”

The Doctor’s outfit is a pretty important part of the show. Christopher Eccleston might have been one of the best Doctors ever to grace the series, but his understated, practical outfit is not the direction we should be going in. The Doctor’s costume needs to be eye catching, anachronistic and commented upon frequently. Hey, it worked for Colin Baker.

As such an integral part of the show, the Doctor should pick his new clothes in a way that fits Moffat’s storytelling methods. In Series 8, the Doctor will spend a good part of each episode trying to track down an item of clothing belonging to a love interest he hasn’t met yet. Each item of clothing has the name of its owner written in the label, but the handwriting is terrible and the Doctor needs each piece to identify the owner.

The 12th Doctor’s Catchphrase:

TARDIS saying GeronimoCatchphrases are fun. They shot Little Britain to success and who couldn’t use a little more of that fame. They’re also good for knowing which fan letters contain good advice. If the writer signs of with an Allons-y, they’re probably not looking to the future. Geronimo goes straight to the top of the pile. Again, the Doctor should be slightly anachronistic but not so much that it alienates the fans. This probably rules out Simples! and Should’ve gone to Specsavers, but leaves Moffat with a more pacifistic option like Leave ‘im Davros, he’s not worth it.

If Moffat is feeling really original, we might get something like Popped Collars are Nifty!

Challenging Love Interests:

Who didn’t love River Song, eh? Her convoluted time travel plot arc that culminated in a shotgun wedding was just the sort of romance we’ve come to expect from a progressive show like this. That story is pretty much wrapped up now, but there are so many more Time Travel love stories to tell. In Series 8, the Doctor discovers he’s using the TARDIS to secretly date two women at once, neither of which he’s actually met. In a shocking twist, they turn out to be the same person but they’ve forgotten for some reason that isn’t very important.

Finding the Balance between Alien and Human:

Clara and the Doctor
“You can travel with me, but you have to cook and clean too.”

Sure, the Doctor looks human, sounds human and spends a lot of time living with humans, but let’s not forget that he’s actually an ancient aliens with ways different to our own. The best way to do this is to periodically write it into the script, but there are subtler ways. Everyone knows that aliens don’t have manners, every so often giving the Doctor something unnecessarily insensitive should do the trick. Still, if the Doctor was totally unsympathetic, there’d be no reason to watch the show. Bring him down to earth by writing in a few of 21st Century Earth’s social prejudices. Every so often the 12th Doctor will sigh and mutter “Women!” under his breath. That’s a feeling we can all get behind, no matter what planet you’re from!

Murder and Genocide, each more casual than the last:

Genocide Machine cover.
Maybe the Dalek isn’t the villain?

The Eleventh Doctor was a complex figure. On the day he was born, he reminded us that Earth would always be protected. A couple of years later, and he’d retired from protecting the Earth because he’d got another companion stuck somewhere even the TARDIS can’t reach. Sure, he’s been through that a few times before, but after a while it starts to get to you. When he was on the case, The Eleventh Doctor liked to finish things in a big way. The Doctor lives in a dangerous universe, sometimes you need to blow up the entire Cyberman fleet just to get directions, or use subliminal messages to wipe out an entire invasion force, or pilot a homing missile into a spaceship just to kill one sick old man in circumstances that weren’t that urgent.

The 12th Doctor will take this even further, recognising the Doctor’s mistakes of the past and fixing them. Highlights include a return to the events during  Genesis of the Daleks. While Tom Baker ponders over the ethics of obliterating the entire Dalek race, the 12th Doctor yanks the wires from his and and blows them to bits. The big series finale sees a crossover with David Tennant and finally corrects events during The Doctor’s Daughter. While Tennant holds a gun to the head of his Daughter’s killer and says “I never would,” Capaldi arrives finishes the job.

That’s all for now, some of these predictions might seem like a stretch, but like Moffat says. Doctor Who is about surprises!

Why Twist Endings Don’t Work For Me.

Let's see what's behind... The Scary Door!
Let’s see what’s behind… The Scary Door!

Beth and I just finished the Nolan Batman Trilogy again. I have spoken about The Dark Knight Rises here before, but I’d barely walked out of the cinema when I wrote that. Back then I was more concerned with the film’s narrative weakness when compared to The Dark Knight. I’ve seen Rises twice since then, and I like it. It’s a fun film that borrows from some of my favourite Batman stories. But it’s easily the weakest of the Trilogy, hamstrung by Nolan’s desire to go out with a bang. The film has some great moments, but its weakened by contorting to fit a few feeble twists in the final act. I’m not here to talk about Batman, so I won’t go into spoilers here, but I think I can say that none of these twists knocked my socks off.

The cinema loves a good plot twist. Some are so iconic, their surprise is long forgotten. I’m sad to say I knew the ending to The Empire Strikes Back well before I saw the film. It’s a consequence of being the youngest in a large family, you’ve heard the all the best bits of all the best films long before you get to experience them for yourself. Sometimes you’re lucky. When I was eleven, I was lucky enough to see Hitchcock’s Psycho without any foreknowledge, and I was young enough to still find it scary. It was a great experience and the film is still one of my favourites, but otherwise I’m not a big fan of the plot twist.

People knock M. Night Shyamalan, but I’d say he’s one of the few film makers that gets the plot twist right. I don’t always care for his films, but the appeal of The Sixth Sense is not just that it ends with a surprise, but that the surprise is actually fundamental to a proper understanding of the film. My all time favourite twist is still Planet of the Apes, a blow that still catches a new viewer unawares since the dated B-Movie feel lulls you into a false sense of security.  Here the twist is not only integral to the plot, but in retrospect, the only logical conclusion to the story. Planet of the Apes also gets bonus points for offering a twist ending that is so much better than the novel it was based upon. 

But there are those other cinema twists, the kind that seem to be coming more and more common. Take Star Trek Into Darkness, an enjoyable film that crams the second half with twists that are neither surprising nor alter the course of the film. Where The Empire Strikes Back offered us a twist that changed the way we looked at The Hero and The Villain, Return of the Jedi offers us another familial twist that just seems confusing and without merit. One of the few things I liked about Man of Steel is that it tried to tell a clear, controlled story, but even that falls prey to the last minute attempt to jolt the audience’s expectations. In literature, Philip K Dick is still the master of the twist ending. Each of his short stories seems to terminate in an equally alarming conclusion. Funnily enough, though his work has been adapted to the big screen repeatedly, his twist endings don’t seem to survive the process quite so often.

I find the plot twist grating. I know that stories are there to entertain us, storytellers have a lot of tools at their disposal and surprise is one of them, but it is not my favourite. I read books, watch TV and go to the cinema to be entertained. For the money I pay, I usually expect to be entertained for the duration of the story. This means the narrative needs to be tight, flowing and with a sense of purpose. Take The Dark Knight as an example. The film is an enormous success because its plot construction is almost perfect. Every scene, every word of dialogue is place in the film with a clear intention. It leads to a climax that seems inevitable. Furthermore, it features only one real plot twist, about halfway through the film that naturally begins the events of the second half. Another of my favourite films recently was Dredd. This long overdue adaptation was a flop at the box office, and I still can’t believe it. It presents a small, tight story that takes place within a single building. Not a minute of screentime is wasted. It also features very little you could call a plot twist.

These are the kinds of stories I enjoy, careful and controlled. The plot twist weakens this control. The problem is that a twist relies on establishing certain expectations in the audience, and then defying them. Performed well, it can be the highlight of a story, but defying expectations is not easy. If, for example, you would like to present a character as an ally, only to reveal in the final moments that they are actually the villain, you are forced to present a very limited picture of the the character. Worse still, the temptation is to build the character up even higher to enhance the twist when it finally comes. Inevitably, plot holes develop. (e.g Why didn’t he just shoot him when they were alone together? He’s been around for months, why didn’t he just steal the Jewel etc. etc.) Even Doctor Who, my absolute favourite, has succumb to the plot twist. Swapping intelligent, well paced drama for an elaborate series of 45 minute chapters in an ever more convoluted story arc. 

Plot twists leave me feel cheated. The lengths that creators travel to conceal them leave their stories bent out of shape around them. They are almost always spotted, and do nothing but dilute their stories in favour of a bit of cheap sparkle that will be forgotten as soon as the next sparkly thing comes along. It’s time to leave this narrative device behind, and explore pacing, plotting and characterisation instead.

Next Doctor Predictions: What can we expect from Moff if Capaldi says no.

MattSmithRegenIt’s that time again! Iron out your TARDIS-blue Party Horns and throw away your bow-ties, it’s New Doctor Announcement Day!

As we close on the final hour, Bookies’ favourite is Thick of It foul mouth, Peter Capaldi. Seems like an odd choice to me since Cap’ has appeared prominently in both Series 4 of Doctor Who and the best five hours of TV Drama ever made. Capaldi’s such a pro that he’d do a great job anyway, but it would be an odd bit of continuity dissonance. (Didn’t stop Colin Baker though.)

So, if Capaldi says no, here are my special Moffat-Who predictions for The Twelfth Doctor.

1) A woman, any woman.

The demand for a female doctor is louder than ever, and if there’s one thing Moffat likes, it’s fan service. We can’t just have any woman though. This is Moffat-Who we’re talking about. Don’t count on anyone short and dumpy, acting skills de damned. No doubt Moff will aid the acceptance of our new female Doctor by casting a gal who can easily be reduced to a body part related nickname. He’s probably already got 12’s big final written, in which The Doctor finally retires to be a stay at home Mum. Look forward to “Doctor Boobs” in 2014.

Casting Predictions: Marilyn Monroe, weaved seamlessly in the footage with a little CGI Cinema-Magic. (EDIT: Or, since this is Moffat, Gina Bellman. Playing it exactly like Jane from Coupling.)

2) A Teenager

The Doctor has been getting younger and younger lately, and what’s life in the TARDIS without sexual innuendo and raging hormones. A Doctor with the body of a teenager is the ideal choice. He should also have lots of pop-culture catchphrases and talk about that time he got off with the Rani behind the bike sheds. The TARDIS takes on more of a motherly role in this series, enforcing a curfew on the young Doctor at all times. The series arc involves The Doctor trying to score weed from a duplicitous Sontaran.

Casting Predictions: Anyone from The Inbetweeners, or for a low budget option, Moffat just wanders the house filming his own kids when they aren’t looking.

3) A New Doctor Every Week

Doctor Who is all about surprises, you can’t just watch it while you do the ironing. Changing the Doctor every couple of years gives you too long to get to grips with the situation. In future Moff-Who, the Doctor will change with every plot twist. Each new incarnation of the Doctor will also have a new catchphrase, costume and sonic screwdriver. Though, to save money, they will just be off the shelf Black and Decker’s now.

Casting Predictions: Obviously getting a new actor every time will be prohibitively expensive, for this option all future Doctors will just be played by David Walliams and Matt Lucas. When Moff’s having an off day, they can write it too.

4) Tom Baker

God knows, the show could use someone experienced on the team.

Casting Predictions: Tom Baker, Colin Baker (I think he’d be up for it, and most people only remember “Baker” anyway.)

5) Gatiss

Because he always turns up when you least expect him.

Casting Predictions: Just Gatiss, being Gatiss.