7 Tips For Writing Great Plot Twists: A good plot twist enhances a novel by adding interest, tension, or surprise. Plot twists are especially popular in suspense books like murder mysteries because they prolong suspense-creating doubts about cause and identity. A plot twist is defined as “an unexpected development in a book, film, or television show”. Plot twists are especially common in short works. They are often the primary event of the story arc in many stories. In Roald Dahl’s iconic short story ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, for example, Mary Maloney murders her husband with a frozen leg of lamb. The darkly humorous twist is that Mary provides evidence to detectives investigating her husband’s abduction. Authors such as O. Henry and Edgar Allan Poe developed the ‘twist-in-the-tail’ story. The plot twist serves as the climax in these stories. Plot twists, on the other hand, are prevalent in longer storylines.
7 Tips For Writing Great Plot Twists
Plumb your themes for relevant plot twist ideas
Great plot twists frequently demonstrate or enhance the concepts of a novel. In the Roald Dahl example above, the author depicts a darker aspect of humdrum suburbia. The dramatic irony and contrast of this is further exploited. The investigators sat down to a hearty home-cooked lunch, completely ignorant that they are about to consume the evidence. Adam Ewing, the novel’s primary character, discusses a chronic sickness to a doctor aboard his ship. The doctor diagnoses a hazardous parasite and prescribes therapy. We learn much later in the book that the doctor is purposely poisoning Ewing rather than healing him. The stealing of Ewing’s riches is his motivation.
The full nature of a character’s actions and intentions is revealed in this plot twist. It’s thematically relevant because most of Mitchell’s novel revolves around how individuals and groups prey on one another. One setting and part of the story, for example, depicts a futuristic Korea and the misery of enslaved clones. Thus, Mitchell’s story twist carries on themes of power and predatory behavior. It reveals that power has numerous layers and levels, facts and lies throughout history and in modern life.
Don’t give your twist away too early
There is too much clear foreshadowing, and the twist is expected. To minimize spoilers for newcomers to the popular series, the following example of a less evident plot twist has been left vague: A prominent character’s pet in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novel turns out to have a shocking, disturbing double existence. Rowling’s twist works because the reader does not expect a pet to be the cause of a big plot surprise. The resulting sense of false trust exacerbates the difficulties in Rowling’s conflict-ridden world. We become acutely aware that in this world, loyalty does not always reside in the expected places. We are also reminded that magic implies that there are many more surprises and possibilities. Rowling keeps us guessing by focusing a big plot twist on an unlikely character. She avoids revealing story surprises too early. Having a printed outline of your novel can help you keep focused on major plot themes.
Make setting an active part of plot twists
Setting in plot can pave the path for unexpected surprises. Emily Grierson, for example, is the iron-willed town hermit in William Faulkner’s classic short tale “A Rose for Emily”. Emily’s abode is kept mysterious from the start, by the narrator.
It was a vast, squarish frame home that had formerly been white, ornamented with cupolas and spires and scrolling balconies in the heavily light some style of the 1970s, placed on what had once been our most prestigious street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and erased even the neighborhood’s august names; only Miss Emily’s mansion remained, rising above the cotton wagons and gasoline stations among eyesores.
Faulkner conveys the deteriorating remoteness of this setting. He teases the unexpected twist that awaits inside the mansion. Only at the conclusion do we come across the decomposing remains of Homer Barron, a man who moves in with Emily. Plot twists involving setting may include:
- Uncover an unexpected plot twist within a setting, this could be a house, school or even a distant land – a common device in high fantasy.
- In Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), for example, we eventually uncover the reason of the post-apocalyptic environment. We grasp Atwood’s tragic plot and her characters’ participation in environmental catastrophe.
Use plot twists to increase antagonists’ power
If you’re writing a novel or story that features a central villain or antagonist, a plot twist might provide them with unexpected, additional power. This device is common in fantasy writing and it’s also used in video game storytelling. When the main protagonists think they’ve defeated a formidable foe, they hear the words, ‘This isn’t even my final form’. As a result of this storyline twist:
- The series’ key heroes face new challenges on their way to success.
- The narrative tension builds as the protagonists face fresh, seemingly insurmountable tasks.
- Rowling emphasises how powerful and cunning her enemy is. The story twist demonstrates exactly how determined he is to win.
The following plot developments highlight the antagonists power:
- Measures used by antagonists to undermine and thwart protagonists’ best efforts unknown to protagonists
- Actions they take to punish protagonists from beyond the grave/defeat (for example, in a character drama, a bitter ex-spouse may secure an unexpected divorce settlement only to make their ex’s life more difficult.)
Create plot twists to insert useful distractions
A clever plot twist leads characters off course in mystery and thriller books. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Final Problem, for example, this is used fairly literally. Detective Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson are out trekking in the Swiss mountains when they receive word that a woman back at their hotel requires immediate medical attention. Watson rushes back to the hotel, only to discover that the message was a false alarm. It’s a ruse devised by the novel’s antagonist to divide the two, leaving Holmes vulnerable and alone. This storyline twist heightens the suspense and anxiety. A distracting storyline twist sets the stage for another high-stakes plot event. It also lends credibility: characters do make mistakes from time to time. This storyline twist heightens the suspense and anxiety. A distracting storyline twist sets the stage for another high-stakes plot event. It also lends credibility as characters do make mistakes from time to time.
Use plot twists to shift suspicion
Plot twists help to shift suspicion in novels and stories when the key unknown is the identity of a criminal. In a murder mystery, figuring out who the guilty party is or what their reason is a big part of the fun. Plot twists that transfer suspicion to other individuals in your cast, whether subsidiary or central, effectively complicate your story. You push your reader to abandon specific preconceptions or hypotheses in order to go through adrenaline pumping tension.
Twist after twist reveals individual arcs and plausible murder reasons. This makes it impossible to pin suspicion on any one character. The community appears to bear communal responsibility, since sordid double lifestyles abound in its dark underbelly. Story suspense is increased by plot developments that alter suspicion. When numerous characters are suspects, each scene involving these characters is rife with drama, tension, and revelation. Suspicious story twists aren’t just for murder and mystery novels.
In fiction, for example, a subordinate character such as a monarch’s advisor may turn out to be a spy in an unexpected twist. They’ve been passing intelligence about the kingdom’s defenses to an unknown third party aligned with opposing forces the entire time. This type of plot twist results in useful narrative doubling. The monarch makes judgments based on the notion that their assistant is trustworthy. The effect of the reader knowing more than the main character is typically distressing and suspenseful.
Be careful with anticlimactic turns of plot
Plot twists do not necessarily heighten tension. Some story twists reverse suspense and expectation. For example, the novel “The Unconsoled” written by Kazuo Ishiguro (1995). The plot follows Ryder, the protagonist, a renowned musician, as he prepares for a large concert performance in an Eastern European city. The twist is that we never get to see the concert. It is repeatedly postponed in a dream-like tale in which Ryder attempts to keep forgotten appointments and pledges.
The novel was criticized for more than just the non-revealing twist at the end. However, establishing mystery and tension without revealing or satisfying the reader is a method that some readers, particularly those who expect conventional story patterns, may despise. Finally, great plot twist ideas are generally ones that develop a novel’s themes as in Mitchell’s example above or postpone significant narrative revelations, allowing readers to enjoy the guessing game for a longer period of time.
Also Read: 11 Standalone Fantasy Books for Fans of Game of Thrones
7 Tips For Writing Great Plot Twists