Today, I've turned over my spot today to my guest, Desiree Villena:
3 TIPS FOR SPINNING SATISFYING PLOT TWISTS
jump up from the couch clutching your book. Your eyes are wide, you can’t
believe it. “I knew it!” you shout, and
point at the first creature you see, hoping they’ll share in your triumph.
You’re humming with excitement and satisfaction: it seems you’ve encountered a
firm reader favorite, the plot twist is not just fodder for mysteries and
thrillers. In recent times, it has reared its head in almost every fiction
genre there is. But if readers have come to expect the unexpected, how can you keep them on their toes?
crafting a plot twist, bigger isn’t always better. Rather than simply escalating
the shock value, you’ll need to make sure your twist is unexpected, narratively
sound, and expertly foreshadowed. So if you want to start writing a book with an impactful surprise, here
are three top tips to help you nail all of those key elements.
1. Challenge your reader’s
twisty tropes have been done so many times that they’ve become tiresomely
predictable. “It was all a dream,” “she was dead along,” “I am your father,”
etcetera, etcetera. Choosing to mimic one of these notorious twists makes it
difficult to pull the wool over your reader’s eyes. Bamboozling your reader by foiling their predictions, however, can
make for a great plot twist. If you successfully subvert their expectations by
putting your own spin on a generic trope and avoid using tired clichés, you can thrill your audience with a
most-pleasing sort of surprise.
a trope isn’t the only way to topple expectations. For instance, most readers feel
safe in the assumption that a twist comes at the end of a story, and there are
moves you can make to challenge this. You might have them believe that the
monumental twist has already happened, then hit them with an even more shocking twist later on. Or you
could catch them off-guard by throwing them a second twist while they’re still
recovering from the first.
can also blindside a reader by revealing that the impression they have of a
central character or series of events is entirely false. My favorite way to do
this is to use an unreliable narrator. Readers are misdirected by the biased
way the narrator tells the story — either because of their subjectivity, their
misunderstanding of events, or a hidden desire to present things differently to
how they are.
2. Don’t rely on shock value alone
unexpected plot twists are all about shock value (I’m looking at you, Gossip Girl), and these twists tend to
feel disjointed. A dramatic reveal, like a suspect’s twin sister, might induce
a sharp intake of breath — but if it has very little set-up or consequence for
the story, then you risk deflating the tension and bringing things to an
abrupt, unsatisfying end.
gratifying plot twist is one that is both surprising and meaningfully connected to the story. It should reveal a deeper
layer behind what’s come before, or significantly change the course of events.
Whichever direction your twist catapults your plot in, the golden rule is that
it absolutely must make sense alongside everything you’ve already established.
One of the most frustrating things an author can do is ask their readers to
forget everything they’ve understood so far.
avoid personality transplants and long-winded explanations, be sure to ground
your twist in the existing narrative and establish realistic character
motivations — so that when it all goes down, your reader understands how and
why. Once you’ve written your big reveal, re-read everything that’s come before
and ask yourself: Does the story still hold up? Or better yet: Has the twist
added value beyond just a momentary shock?
3. Play a game of Clue
you’re looking to write the kind of plot twist that induces the famous “Oh, of course!” revelation, rather than an
exclamatory gasp, then you’ll need to include an element of foreshadowing.
best to think about foreshadowing when planning your novel, so that you can determine
precisely the right moment to drop a subtle hint — carefully drawing the
reader’s attention to it, but not being too heavy-handed. Your clues should be
planted so that the tension builds towards your plot twist, keeping readers eager
to reach the climax, without leaving so many clues that they have it all
figured out too soon. After all, the guessing game is half the fun!
that end, you might want to plant a few red herrings alongside your clues.
Leading readers down the garden path and away from the truth, red herrings will
keep your audience guessing right up until the twist, increasing the tension
and escalating the pace of your novel. Of course, you don’t want to get so
wrapped up in a false lead that it makes more sense than your actual plot
twist. So take one more look over that manuscript and make sure that with the
twist in mind, the truth makes perfect sense.
I say there would be three tips? Well, how about THIS twist: here’s one more!
taking the time to perform a thorough self-edit, share your manuscript with
trusted beta readers to make sure your plot twist has readers jumping up from
the couch and pointing at traumatized cats.
can ask your beta readers to record their working theories as they read; this
way you can see whether they picked up on your clues at just the right moment,
and whether they were misled just the right amount by your red herrings. Or you
can prepare some questions for them to answer. Was your plot twist unexpected?
Did they feel cheated by the reveal, or was it rewarding? Were any red herrings
unnecessary, or any clues clumsy? Getting a reader’s reaction in real-time is
invaluable when it comes to spinning satisfying plot twists.
that’s it! With the help of these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a writer who’s always one step ahead of
their readers. Best of luck!
--Thank you, Desiree, those were great tips!