Story Twinkies: Do You Need One?

Story TwinkieSorry for our brief absence. Did you miss us? Heather and I needed some down time. We logged an insane number of blogging hours during April and our work, writing, health and family lives were starting to suffer. The vacation did its job brilliantly. We’re excited to get back to work and have some fantastic new adventures in store for our readers, including our first blog hop. But more about that in a few weeks. For now, let’s get to the post…

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:
After a character has a major set back, a Twinkie can give them hope for the future. It can also work as an ah-ha moment by giving the character a clue. A perfect example is a character finally getting a long-awaited smile, right after coming to grips with the idea that they will never get the girl or guy to notice them.

Timing is critical with a Twinkie:
Horror movies love Twinkies; they are almost always included in a moment of tension release or comic relief. When everyone in the story has convinced themselves a serial killer hides in the shed, out pops the beloved family pet. Hopefully some of you had a chance to watch SHAWN OF THE DEAD; Heather’s example pick for last month’s Masterplot X meets Y (Genre Mashups). If you did you may already have realized that every time Shawn stumbles into his ex-girlfriend, that’s a Twinkie.

A Twinkie is always positive:
From the protagonist’s prospective, the Twinkie is good, possibly great! From the standpoint of the antagonist, the Twinkie is not good, or could be down right nasty. However, it’s never a major disaster from anyone’s perceptive. If Hermione’s punch got her expelled it would be too significant of an event to quality as a Twinkie. Twinkies are, by nature, fluff! You should be able to pull them out and have the story read almost exactly the same way.

Do you have a favorite story Twinkie? Or have you ever included a Twinkie in your own work?  Please share in the comments because I love a good Twinkie.

I also want to take this moment to thank everyone who dropped by to read and comment on our Masterplots Theater posts. It was a labor of love and we hope everyone enjoyed the theme. We still have a few more Masterplots up our sleeves, but we plan to spring them on you when you least expect it.

Next, we have a huge shout-out to Sarah at The Old Shelter and Diane at Squirrels in the Doohickey. Both these amazing ladies just nominated us for blogging awards. We love these two blogs. Please drop by and pay them a visit. You will find some 1920’s historical fun at Sarah’s blog and some side splitting giggles at Diane’s blog. Blog awards are something Heather and I really enjoy. It gives us a chance to get some much valued real-time feedback and to share in the joy of being part of the blogging community. Thank you so much ladies!

Author: Robin Rivera

Robin trained as a professional historian and worked as a museum curator, an educator and historical consultant. She writes dark young adult fiction, with diverse characters. She's currently querying a novel, and working on two new manuscripts that started off as NaNoWriMo projects. You can follow her on Facebook(https://www.facebook.com/robin.rivera.90813) or on Twitter @robinrwrites. However, Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/RRWrites/) is where her inner magpie is happiest of all.

21 thoughts on “Story Twinkies: Do You Need One?”

  1. I have never heard of this before. I’m intrigued to learn more now! Thank you for sharing this. As I revise my WIP, I’ll keep an eye out for hidden “twinkies” and maybe add a few! 🙂

  2. Never had a term for this before. There’s a lot of pressure on writers to cut out anything that’s “unnecessary,” but a story without the occasional “Twinkie” is a pretty dull kind of story.

    1. Hi James, I know what you mean about pressures, I feel them too. : ( But all writing is about balance. The occasional Twinkie is something I look forward too as a reader, and a writer. Thanks for dropping by.

  3. I’ve been binge-watching the fourth season of House of Cards and they could seriously use a “Twinkie moment” soon. It’s all been tension and darkness, with no knowledge that anything is going to get better or at the very least, that the tension will break…. For the last 7 episodes, it’s sort of been like going up a steep roller coaster hill, all the while knowing that the entire track ends over the bend. The whole cart is just going to plummet and crash… which is certainly a valid feeling to give to your audience, but there’s only so long I’m willing to be uncomfortable, haha.

    Glad you guys are recovered. 🙂

    1. Dramas are often sadly lacking Twinkies and they need them. : ) Plus if they’re done correctly they don’t damage the tone, they enhance it.

  4. I had never heard of a story Twinkie before, so thanks for the great explanation! These are absolutely crucial at times – love how you described it as a relief from tension or encouragement for a protagonist. I’ll look for them in movies from now on.

    1. I’m happy I could give you something new to look for in films. Please let me know if you find any great examples.

    1. Thanks, Patricia! Unfortunately, A to Z really kicked my fanny. I was down sick for a week. : (
      If you find any memorable Twinkies let me know. They’re a bit of an obsession with me.

    1. Thanks! It’s nice to be back. I think the Twinkie term in story design (at least in game writing) might predate Ghostbusters, but I will have to check that.

  5. I had never heard the term either! One of my faves may not qualify, as no one sees it but the audience. In the movie War Games there are a few seconds deep in the NORAD facility when the tension is high and the world is going to end where the general’s assistant, unsure of what to do with the wad of chewed gum he gave her to hold, pops it in her mouth when no one is looking. Those few seconds are almost always cut when it’s shown on television but it’s brilliant! It’s humorous and also comments in the situation–she may not live long enough to get sick from his germs so why not? Not sure this is a Twinkie though.

    1. We have a winner in the spot the Twinkie game. : ) And it’s one I’ve never noticed before. I know what the kids and I are watching next weekend.

  6. I write whimsical stories that have lots of little twinkies, I just didn’t know the term.
    Thanks, Robin!
    This series has been terrific!
    ~Icky. 🙂

  7. I’ve never heard the Twinkie term but love the way you’ve described it. I’ll be paying attention in everything I read in future to try to spot them. What fun! Not sure I’ve used this device in my own work – will have to think about it. Great post, Robin – really enjoyed this.

    1. Hi Sharon, Now that you know about them, I bet you will see them everywhere! They are a lot more popular than most people realize.

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