Write Good Twists
Write Good: An Absurd Storytelling And Adventure Blog
Remember your favorite twist. Right now.
Not the pretzel or the licorice kind.
The storytelling kind. From movies, books, or games.
Those gol-durn twists have tons in common. Seeming unpredictability. Emotional weight. Seeming inevitability. Basically, twists have three flavors of NO WAY attached to them, and we’re gonna taste test those three flavors, so get ready for a plot twist beer tasting. (Or cheese tasting for those sober readers out there.)
YOU can make readers enjoy failing to see your twist coming no matter how much they scratch their little noggins. Foreshadowing’s a dadgum good ingredient, but it’s also as stale as the potato chips you left open last night and craved after work but spat out because dadgumit you should have closed the friggin’ bag. If you haven’t practiced going back through your story and asking yourself if you placed all the pieces of foreshadowing before the twist, do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Didja get it done? Rock on.
Now for the spicy part: Sweeping the reader away.
The plot twist is more unpredictable if you dazzle the reader with eye-popping magic, enchanting sensory input, or high-stakes pacing. Books ain’t like old-school video games where it’s, “We gotta hurry, but you can totally take two hours and explore this part of the map because the plot waits for the player to be done with lollygagging.” Those antagonists are COMING for your protagonist, so make the reader care and then punch it. When the twist sinks its subtle (or explosive) teeth in later, your reader will be flipping pages looking for hints to gobble up because they were too busy gobbling up the dazzling stuff you threw at them. Shredding on the reader’s heartstrings like Eddie Van Halen on a roller coaster sippin’ espresso is one of the best ways to do this.
YOU can get readers identifying with your protagonists, antagonists, and all the other characters. Give ‘em each something to love and wrench it away. Ask yourself, “What would I do to get back love? Or to change who I am? Or to prove something to someone?” Then push ‘em way beyond the brink of what’s legal or even moral just to see it and the emotions that flow from it. That part’s only there because let’s be honest, WE can’t go off and break the law or raid a billionaire dragon’s island resort, but our characters can. Once you did that shiz, summon beta readers however you can (Pizza & beer, Ouiji boards, screaming that yellow-masked fighting game character’s famous line, HOWEVER YOU CAN!) to see how they react and take that to heart when you re-write. Feelings are frickin’ powerful, and listening to yours and others’ for the sake of a good twist makes for excellent writing.
YOU can make all that craziness seem inevitable. “WHAT DID YOU THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN YOU STOLE THE LONELY SPACE REDNECK’S HYPERTRUCK TO FLY THROUGH GOVERNMENT SPACE TO BE WITH YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER?” A lotta podcasts out there use the term, “surprising, yet inevitable” for this, and I friggin’ agree...
If everything’s surprising about your twist, then the reader MIGHT feel like crap because none of the information they clung to made any difference. Balance out what’s surprising with a few details the reader knows to cling to. Validate both YOUR writing knowledge and the READER’S previous story-reading knowledge, THEN re-wire some of those pieces. That way, when the redneck space bumpkin sees reason to turn his laser shotty against the government agents after him and your heroine for romance’s sake, it’ll be surprising, SATISFYING, and inevitable.
Now get the frick out there and write like there’s no tomorrow. (Said in a loving, caring, grinningly-endearing way.) You can do the thing!