S23E6 – Structuring a Paradigm Shift

A paradigm shift structure is more than a simple plot twist. As the definition states, it’s a fundamental change to the underlying assumptions. One of the most famous uses of this structure is The Sixth Sense, a film by M. Night Shyamalan. In the movie, both the audience and the main character experience a paradigm shift that completely reframes the entire story.

Authors who want to use this structure must be prepared to plan how the story will unfold. In the beginning, the audience needs to make key assumptions about the story. In The Sixth Sense, that assumption was that Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a child psychologist assigned to help a young boy who sees dead people. The paradigm shift comes when both Crowe and the audience discover that he’s been dead the entire time. Suddenly, the whole story is different. Events that took place earlier suddenly make more sense. And if you read or watch it a second time with the knowledge of that paradigm shift, it becomes a whole new experience.

The difficulty, though, comes in making sure that second read still makes sense. In this episode, we discuss using this paradigm shift structure to tell a unique story.

First aired August 19, 2021.

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About the Author
I'm an editor and cover designer for AspenHouse Publishing. I am also a host for AspenHouse's poscast, Writing Roots.

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