Without hesitation, my favourite part in a novel has to be the plot twist. There is something so thrilling about flipping through pages as quickly as you can while tension in the story grows. We become terrified for our protagonists as we anxiously await what will happen to them. Then we reach the gut-punching sentence where our jaws drop to the floor. Anyone who has read a plot twist like this before knows the feeling I am describing.
If you’re interested in writing or are just curious as to how these skilled and talented authors are able to create a plot twist that nobody expected, this blog entry is for you
Misdirection is important
If you’ve ever read a mystery novel, you know that often enough, there will be a character that enters the novel at just the right time. Readers will look at this character and think, “This has to be the culprit!”. However, authors will enter this character purposely as a distraction from the real culprit, who will often be in plain sight.
When adding misdirection to your novel, whether that be through a character or plot point, you should make your readers feel as if they know exactly what is going on. You can do this by making the misdirection subtle, but obvious enough that a reader will pick up on it.
Your plot twist does not have to be at the climax of your novel
A common practice in writing is placing the biggest plot twist at the end of your story. While this practice works great and adds a lot of build up, it isn’t the only way to do it.
A key element is to add backstory and have a strong setup, which is why although possible, it may be difficult to add a plot twist into the first chapter of your novel. However, once you lay out the story in your novel, you can add in a plot twist whenever you’d like.
Watch how much you reveal (foreshadowing!)
While you’re writing, make sure you don’t show all of your cards when it comes to plot twists. Foreshadowing is crucial, but if you reveal too much while foreshadowing it can leave your reader knowing exactly what is going to happen with your plot twist.
The trick with foreshadowing is leaving small, detailed pieces of information. These bits of information may not seem important to readers at the time, but once they reach the plot twist and look back at all information they’ll think, “how could I have missed this?”.
Sometimes writers find it more helpful to add in foreshadowing after they have completed a draft of their novel. This way, they have a clear picture of all of the main events that happen.
Use your plot twists effectively
After a plot twist happens, something exciting should happen in your novel.
A common type of plot twist is revealing a character after the plot twist. For example, imagine you’re reading a fantasy novel where the protagonist is in search of a mysterious, unknown villain who is secretly pulling strings and causing chaos. A plot twist in this story would be revealing the villain to be the best friend of the protagonist.
You can also use plot twists to change the fortune of a character. This twist actually has a name, and it is called peripetia. Usually, a peripetia twist if a shift from good fortune to bad. This twist is often tragic, devastating, and emotional. An example of a peripetia twist could be the death of an adored character.
Using plot twists effectively keeps readers on their toes and prevents them from becoming bored while reading.
Try freewriting as a method to create plot twists if you feel stuck
Plot twists are complicated. They features webs of lies and deception and they require a plan. Writing plot twists can become tiring to write because of the thought process behind them.
A strategy you can use when you feel stuck while creating a plot twist is freewriting. There is no formal way to freewrite; it means exactly what it sounds like. When freewriting, you write whatever comes into your head. Do not think too much and do not plan. Let your mind escape, and for however long you want, write what you feel. Freewriting allows you to stop overthinking your writing, and let your characters create the plot twists.
Keep your readers guessing
Having your readers constantly unsure of what is happening in a novel keeps them reading and craving more of the story.
I love reading books where the author has a “no one is safe” mentality. This mentality keeps me engaged and constantly guessing what is going to happen. It also adds so much tension to the story.
The “no one is safe mentality” is one way to keep readers guessing, but another way would be adding a plot twist inside a plot twist. Readers will not expect another twist directly after a twist just took place, so it’s definitely one way to keep the story moving quickly.
Ask yourself important questions
As a writer, it is important to know if your plot twist is needed for the story, if it makes sense, and if it is believable. Even if a plot twist is absolutely jaw dropping, if it doesn’t follow the narrative and if the readers don’t buy what is taking place, the jaw dropping factor will reduce.
Keep the story moving
Imagine you’ve reached the plot twist, you are thrilled and completely in awe of what is taking place in the novel you’re reading, and then suddenly, everything comes to a halt and the end of the novel is dull.
You must keep your story moving after the plot twist! By this point, when you’ve been successful in creating your plot twist, you have the readers in the palm of your hand, eagerly awaiting the events that will take place. This is the time to add the action and tension.
As a reader I often spend a lot of time trying to figure out how my favourite authors are able to create such fantastic plot twists. I will read books over and over again looking for clues and trying to figure out how I missed certain elements. I think the best piece of advice regarding writing plot twists would be to not overthink and to not put so much pressure on yourself. Let the ideas flow through you, brainstorm, be passionate about your story, and then you have everything you need to write an amazing plot twist.
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