A plot twist is a shocking or unexpected revelation in a work of fiction, forcing the reader to reconsider what they thought they knew about the story.
When used effectively, plot twists can form the basis of a killer story. If executed poorly, though, a plot twist may turn into a story killer. Here, then, are a few tips to help you create a stunning plot twist.
1. Exclude the Obvious
Think of an ending so unexpected that even seasoned readers would not predict it. A useful tip while plotting your story is to brainstorm a list of obvious narrative turns. Once you have identified the obvious plot points, subvert one by doing something different. Remember, an effective plot twist doesn’t always have to be explosive; a small spark can be just as effective.
2. Avoid Clichés
Some twists are so overused they are no longer surprising. Don’t disappoint the reader with an anti-climactic cliché, such as ‘Grahame woke up and realised it was all just a dream!’ Instead, look at what other people have done before and try to work out an original take or twist.
Foreshadowing is a key component in setting up a plot twist. It involves planting subtle clues within the narrative, e.g. in the emotion or action of another event within the story. First time through, the reader may not realise the significance of these clues. But after the plot twist is revealed, they should be able to look back at them and see the hints they missed.
You may also want to include a red herring or two somewhere (i.e. things that seem like clues but actually misdirect readers).
For instance, if you were writing a murder mystery, you might have a side characters spotted on the night of the murder (even if they’re not the killer). This can keep your reader guessing, adding tension to the story and making the twist more surprising when it turns up.
But don’t plant too many false clues, as they can be frustrating if overdone!
4. Maintain Momentum
When planning a plot twist mid-story, make sure the narrative doesn’t lose momentum after the revelation. This can be difficult, as you may have focused on building up to this narrative moment. But you need to keep the reader interested in the rest of the story, so make sure the twist also progresses the story and creates intrigue for what will happen next.
5. Test the Twist
Once you have written a first draft, you may want to seek feedback from a reader. Questions you could ask include:
- Did they see the plot twist coming?
- Was there enough foreshadowing to make the twist satisfying?
- Was the plot twist both believable and compelling?
After you’ve done this, think about whether you can improve the twist while redrafting. And don’t forget to have your manuscript proofread once you have a final draft, as we can help you prepare for publication.