Plot twist is the term used to describe those completely unexpected turns of event, within your overall plot.
I refer to those story moments, those revelations, that literally turn reader expectations on their head.
Outside of actual spoilers, readers don’t, by definition, know exactly what’s going to happen next in your story. However, they can often guess, or at least have a general idea of what to expect.
The beauty of a plot twist is that readers don’t predict it – or, at least, shouldn’t be able to, if the twist is successfully executed.
Although I primarily discuss novel writing in my blog posts, it’s worth noting that plot twists can be extremely effective in short stories, and especially so in flash fiction.
So, does every story need to include a plot twist?
No, it’s not a requirement, and some stories function fine without a plot twist.
Genre can be a factor, as well as simply the needs of the particular story.
There are stories that do contain multiple plot twists. And some include that one killer plot twist.
Oh, and since I used the term “killer”, it seems like a good time to mention, that plot twists often do come in the form of an unexpected death.
For specific tips, relevant to killing off characters, I recommend reading my post on this subject.
Reversing character roles can often work as a plot twist. For example, the bad guy turning out to be the good guy, and vice versa.
I mentioned unreliable narrators in my POV post, and such narrators can definitely be useful, when it comes to plot twists.
Sometimes what appears to be a subplot can turn out to be more significant. This a good way to introduce a twist of some kind.
Red herrings are false clues, and it’s impossible to discuss plot twists without mentioning them.
Certainly, red herrings and dead ends do have their role, but don’t rely too heavily upon these devices, and be cautious.
If the reader feels that you haven’t “played fair”, it could leave them feeling disappointed and frustrated with your book, which is clearly not the desired effect.
When it comes to plot twists, foreshadowing is essential.
The ideal is to know your own plot twists in advance, and for this reason, it’s much more difficult to pull them off successfully as a “pantser”.
If you didn’t plan a plot twist from the start, you will need to rework earlier scenes, so that everything makes sense.
The most challenging aspect of writing a great plot twist lies in the fact that the reader shouldn’t be able to predict what is coming, and yet, it must also seem logical and believable, in retrospect.
Work on the assumption that a reader will re-read your story. In fact, if the plot twist truly leaves them reeling, this is highly likely to occur.
They should subsequently notice all the signs, the subtle foreshadowing, and be kicking themselves for not connecting the dots sooner.
“Of course! Why didn’t I see it? It’s all here.”
Hopefully these tips will help you to create effective plot twists in your fiction.
It’s an invaluable skill to master, when it comes to developing your writing craft. The best plot twists can leave us stunned, and are highly memorable, which is a major bonus, when it comes to gaining loyal fans, eager to devour more of our stories, in the future.
My post about how to build suspense and tension in your writing, is somewhat related, and might be of interest.