The last thing a writer wants a reader to say is that they knew what was going to happen in the story. Readers don’t want to be able to work out what is going to happen, they might want to think they are working it out but really, they want to be surprised. As a writer, we want them to be surprised, and say ‘Oh wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ This is why we use plot twists in our stories. A plot twist is a development in a story that the reader isn’t expecting. Something shocking may happen or be revealed. This change doesn’t follow in the way the writer might have suggested earlier in the story.
R.L. Stine said ‘Every story ever told can be broken down into three parts. The beginning. The middle. And the plot twist.’
When plot twists are done well, your reader will be hooked. They won’t forget them. But, if it’s not done well, a reader can be left feeling cheated and let down. So, how do we write brilliant plot twists? I have put together some articles, podcasts, and YouTube videos that I think are helpful.
Masterclass discusses the 6 types of plot twists, including red herrings, having an unreliable narrator, and the protagonist turns out to be the bad guy. The article gives you 5 tips for writing a good plot twist, including killing off a seemingly important character and elevating a minor character.
10 simple tips for writing clever plot twists are introduced here. Putting yourself into the reader’s shoes. How would you react? Think about how you’d expect the story to go and then disregard those ideas and do something totally different. Use some subtle misdirection to make the reader think they know what’s going on. Red herrings and dead ends can also serve your plot twist, as can misguided attention.
This webpage, although aimed at screenwriters, is great for plot twist ideas. It has simple, straightforward ideas to make you think.
This article explains how writers can go wrong when writing a plot twist. The right kind of twist should focus on choice, and reveal a contradictory motivation behind a major choice, or a hidden contradictory major choice. It gives examples of great twists in movies and gives the writer 3 points to consider when writing a great twist ending.
Writer’s digest advises you in 4 ways to write a killer plot twist. It tells you the eliminate the obvious, redirect suspicion, avoid gimmicks, and write towards your reader’s reaction.
What makes a good plot twist is explained here and the importance of where to introduce it in your story. It doesn’t always have to be at the end! Great tips such as not showing your card too soon, using plot twists sparingly, and using them to push the character towards action and to reveal character.
Savannah Gilbao explains red herrings and how to use them effectively in plot twists.
Stephen Graham says great plot twists always deepen not cheapen a story. Here 3 reactions to plot twists are discussed: no way, uh nice, and oh yeah, and how to get these reactions.
In this YouTube video, Abbie Eammons talks about the psychology behind the elusive plot twist and how to make this pivotal moment matter to your characters.
This video by Fiction Technician Jane Kalmes, discusses examining the assumptions your readers may have and how to feed them false ones. How to make plot twists that pack an emotional punch and how to brainstorm for ideas.
Really thinking your plot twist ideas through is the biggest takeaway from all of these. Planning and practising your ideas is key. List your ideas and turn them on their heads to make your plot twists go in a direction even you the writer wouldn’t have predicted! I hope this week’s column is helpful to you and I wish you all the best in coming up with the most amazing plot twists. As always, if there is any particular topic you would like me to cover, do get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan