Mr Twist

Image by SamWilliamsPhoto from Pixabay

Sometimes people aren’t who we think they are. Those who seem to have it all are simply putting on a good show. People who appear to be born leaders turn out, under pressure, not to the have right stuff.

For a long time, I thought that Rick Twist was the sensible, unconventional father-figure that Lucy needed. I thought he was the adult who, throughout the series, would protect her, have faith in her, and give her the crucial guidance when it was needed.

And this is the role he plays for three quarters of The Mythic.

Then he betrays her.

Twisted Logic

The journey of crafting the character of Mr Twist was as bendy and byzantine as his name implies.

You see, Rick Twist’s surname was meant to be a red herring.

I intended for him to be Lucy’s supportive surrogate father but I would drop a sufficient number of clues to make it seem he was going to turn traitor. It would even look like he’d actually betrayed her. Then he’d turn out to be a good guy after all. I would twist Twist.

But no matter how hard I tried to make Mr Twist a charismatic leader, he kept falling into the background. No matter how hard I tried to write him as pragmatic and caring, he slipped into pettiness and jealousy.

This was especially true when Henry entered the frame. In my original vision, Mr Twist and Henry were meant to become quick friends. More than friends, in fact. Yet the instant I introduced them to each other sparks flew—but not the good kind of sparks.

A Twist in the Tale

This was a significant issue because I’d planned for Mr Twist to be one of the core cast of the entire series. Having a key character give me such writing pains so early on caused me a lot of angst.

As I wrestled to keep Mr Twist on his path, I looked back at how I had portrayed him. Had I overdone the “red” part of the herring? I wanted to reflect the real him on the page.

When someone shows you who they really are, you should believe them. I’m paraphrasing Maya Angelou there, but that lesson was in my mind as I struggled to understand why Mr Twist wasn’t acting the way I thought he should.

It was then that I saw that in his introduction, although I had described him as handsome, altruistic, and carefree, I had also labelled his small pony-tail as “ratty”.

Rat Trap

“Ratty”. That word kept echoing in my mind as I read and re-read Twist’s scenes. What if, I thought, it wasn’t just his pony-tail that was rat-like?

I still recall the moment I realised that Mr Twist, through refusing to play the noble mentor-figure, was showing me his true nature. It was like a punch in the gut—the exact feeling a plot twist is meant to deliver. The reason I was having trouble keeping him on his heroic arc is that he wasn’t a hero.

Twisted Mister

By this time I was well into the novel but because I had dropped a trail of breadcrumbs for everyone to think he was a bad guy, I only needed to tweak things here and there to make him go full scoundrel. I had Mr Twist figuratively stab Lucy in the back, then literally get hit in the head by Amber—one of the more satisfying moments for me to write across the entire series.

Mr Twist may yet return to reclaim some of his intended heroic life, or he may double down on his villainy. Perhaps he’s already returned and you don’t know it. You’ll have to keep reading to find out. The best twists, after all, are the ones you don’t see coming…

Bonus Round

Reassessing Mr Twist meant I also had to rethink Principal Duckworth, for he was actually the one who had described that ponytail as “ratty”. Duckworth was intended to be the original villain and then simply the major thorn in Lucy’s side, with no redeeming features. But since Duckworth had been right about Twist’s character I had to ask myself whether I was wrong about the headmaster’s truth. It forced me to look deeper at Duckworth. I eventually (after two books!) realised I had made him far too one-note and rectified that in Book Three.

Bonus Bonus Round

Mr Twist’s loss was Henry’s gain. While the minotaur always had an ongoing role, he quickly assumed the “mentor” space left by Twist’s absence, expanding his part in the books exponentially. Big Bear also benefitted, quickly becoming Lucy’s companion for their sub-plot of Book Two. Those two characters and their roles are so integral to the series that I can’t imagine it any other way. As so often happens in writing, the fix for a problem can create a whole new set of wonderful possibilities.