Note: this list was developed around screenplay tropes, but the point stands in general for fiction.
Gimmicks are twists to the way in which a story is told.
• Real time narrative
• Discontinuous narrative (story told out of sequence)
• Narrator’s POV throughout (very limited access to information)
• Multiple narratives intersect
• Multiple narrators tell same story (Rashomon)
• Flashback / dream story
• Story told backwards
• Unusual format (3-D, silent, animated, etc.)
• Story within story
• Same story told several times, differently each time
• Alternate versions of story for different outcomes
• Full-length narration- story as living anecdote
• Story told in several languages w/o subtitles
• Switch genre of story (Shakespeare in the Bronx, cowboys in space)
...and so on.
Twists are sudden changes in story that reinvent what we know.
• The main character proves to be a ghost
• The hero is the villain
• The best friend is the enemy
• The safe place is not
• The woman is a man
• Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father
...and so on. With twists, we simply need to know one thing for sure, and have that turn out to be utterly wrong.
So all twists are gimmicks, but not all gimmicks are twists. Twists are distinct from other gimmicks in that a twist is entirely story-based, regardless of the method of telling; gimmicks are the method of telling. They're both valid devices, but I've found they are often confused with each other, although they operate on completely different aspects of narrative.
3 weeks ago