How to Write a Killer Plot Twist

There’s nothing quite like a big plot twist that changes a whole story’s meaning in the big reveal. But plot twists are not an easy device to write, so let’s take a closer look at what a killer plot twist must and must not do.

Musts

  • Plot twists must be inventive and original. Eliminate the obvious endings that are predictable and easy for the reader to see coming. Plot twists must surprise your reader. Think of 5 different possible endings and then go with the 6th or 10th.
  • Have a good setup. You have to foreshadow and plant clues for the reader without drawing attention to them (or by drawing attention away from them by using red herrings). Redirect suspicion.
  • Advance the plot. They have to be an integral part of the plot, not just there. Ask yourself why is this deception going on? What does it add to the story once revealed? If you can take out your plot twist without changing the story, you’re doing it wrong. Integrate it into the plot.
  • Have a purpose. Just like the twist should be a part of the story it has to have a plot purpose. The twist should change everything the reader has previously known so that the whole story is now seen from a completely different perspective.
  • Create interesting story situations. This way even if your reader does figure out the twist they will still be excited to see it all unfold.
  • Be re-readable. You want your story to be re-readable so make sure your story is complex and interesting without the twist. Don’t make the twist everything.
  • Have an unreliable narrator. This isn’t exactly a must, but is used commonly to mislead and misdirect the reader by having an unreliable narrator.

Must Nots

  • No tricks. Don’t use dreams to explain away a dramatic setup. Readers will feel cheated and put down your book. They also kill your suspense and tension because the threat perceived wasn’t real. Don’t let your reader down.
  • Don’t just pull the rug out from under your readers, pull it out from under your characters as well. The emotional tension will add depth and tension to your story.
  • Avoid the obvious. Otherwise readers will wonder why the characters haven’t figured it out yet.
  • Don’t go for shock factor. The twist has to be believable with what has been happening in the plot. Keep the twist integral to the plot.

Plot twists require a lot of planning and clever writing, but are definitely worth it. Take these tips and try writing your own plot twist. Have you tried writing plot twists before? What did you struggle with? What worked for you? Share in the comments below and happy writing.

Julia

Follow my weekly column at Our Write Side and subscribe to the first issue of OWS Ink which features a short story by yours truly. Also find me on Twitter and Facebook for weekly prompts and inspiration.

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