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How to Write a Plot Twist

5steps-3That book was okay. I really liked it, but the ending was awfully predictable.

Being predictable is the best compliment a writer can receive because it shows that they were able to lead a reader in a logical way to a satisfying ending. It may be somewhat boring from a reading standpoint, but it means the story also made sense.

Being predictable is also the worst criticism a writer can receive. It’s a reflection of their creativity. They were unable to compose a narrative that was surprising to the reader. When there is a lack of surprise, there will be a lack of entertainment being experienced.

Yet a writer can go too far in their question to be surprising. It can be so unexpected or out of character for the novel that it ruins the entire narrative. That’s why knowing how to write a plot twist that is meaningful, logical, and unpredictable is a key skill that every writer should work on developing.

What Plot Twist Is Right for You?

In the world of literature, there are three basic types of plot twists that are used in some way.

The first is the “reveal.” It’s the type of plot twist that provides an answer to certain questions within a novel that may not be fully understood. You’ll see this type of plot twist at the ending of almost every Scooby Doo story.

The second is the “shock.” This is a plot twist that completely changes the truths that have been offered in the novel. It reverses what everyone thought was going on.

The third and final plot twist is the “laugh.” It’s one-part being clever, one-part being funny, and one-part reality suspension. The goal is to use the novel in a way that is interesting, unexpected, but still plausible based on previous clues that have been offered.

Each plot twist creates a different reaction, but they all have one thing in common: the expectations of the reader change after encountering it.

Why a Reader’s Assumptions Are a Writer’s Best Asset

Readers will expect certain things from a story that they’re reading. One of those assumptions is a basic principle of honesty. People go into a story expecting a conflict between good and evil, but the assumption is that the good guy will stay a good guy, while the bad guy will stay relatively evil.

After all, how would the Bible change if Satan was the savior and Jesus was the ruler of Hell? Talk about a plot twist.

But to make a plot twist feel real, a writer must take advantage of the assumptions by introducing a plausible idea. This is generally done in two specific ways.

The most common method is to allow a reader’s assumptions to be true, but in an unanticipated way. In the story of a professional writer, for example, the assumption might be that the writer is trying to become a published author. Eventually they do get published and earn a livable income from their work, but it’s as a blogger instead of an author.

Assumptions can also be proven to a reader to be completely false. For this to be realistic, a writer must introduce a separate reality after the primary narrative to establish what really happened compared to what they just read about. Millions saw this at the start of Season 10 for the TV series Dallas. When Patrick Duffy signed back onto the series, the writers decided to make all of the previous season be a “dream.”

How to Make a Plot Twist Feel Real

A plot twist needs to have foreshadowing for it to feel real. You can put in false leads and thoughts to take a reader in a different way, but there must still be concrete clues available so that a reader paying close enough attention can sense the plot twist.

To create effective foreshadowing, there must be an idea planted about a plot twist that could happen. Then increase the tension around each character who might get close to the events you plan to include in the plot twist. Something a subtle as shifting the tone of the narrative can be enough to do this.

Then reveal the hidden information in a way that is interesting, yet still logical if you’ve put all the clues together. In doing so, you’ll be able to use whatever plot twist opportunity you prefer without ruining the rest of the narrative just to be surprising in some way.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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