By: Robin Rivera
I’m willing to bet most of the writers reading this have no idea what a story Twinkie is. This is a slang term used in the video game industry. It’s named in honor of a super sweet, spongy cream-filled American snack cake. For gamers the term stands for the unexpected surprises and treats a good game designer will throw into the story to keep the player on the hook. They include them in places where the game gets tough to encourage the player onwards. And they add them after a big boss battle to make the player feel like all their hard work was worth the effort.
Heather and I both have had jobs in the games biz; she’s still in it working for LongStory, while I have long since moved on. However, the wisdom of the Twinkie lingers. This is a super smart story tool and many of the best writers of novels, movies and games use it.
A Twinkie is small:
The best Twinkies are almost inconsequential touches, yet they pack an emotional jolt. A good way to visualize this device is as a split second in time that is totally memorable. Consider the movie HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Remember when Hermione, Ron and Harry are arguing with Draco Malfoy over the death sentence of Buckbeak. The trio of heroes start to walk away and yet at the last second Hermione spins back around and slugs Draco in the face. That is a serous Twinkie moment. It’s a blow so justified that it makes everyone shout “YES!” with enthusiasm. It will not change the outcome of Buckbeak’s fate, but it still gives us some hope that our plucky heroine is not giving up. It also serves as a foreshadowing that Hermione will be the one to take drastic action and save the day.
Use a Twinkie to channel emotions:
Twinkies often show up at a huge victory moment. You will see it when the crowd carries the star player off the field and delivers them into the arms of the talent scout everyone thought wasn’t there to see the big win. Used this way, a Twinkie will intensify the feel good moment. The extra sweet punch of the Twinkie moment is often the last nudge needed to make the reader or viewer cry.
Twinkies can foreshadow:
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