How to write a good plot twist?

Let's go over five essential tips on how to write a good plot twist.

We've all read books and seen movies that took turns we didn't see coming.

But how do you make a so-called "plot twist" that is both unexpected and believable without making it look like it was made up?

You can do this using the tips below.

5 Tips on How to Write a Good Plot Twist

Tip 1: Don't Do The Obvious

The tip sounds pretty simple: if you want to surprise someone, don't do what they expect. Instead, be creative, be original.

Easier said than done? Not really. You just have to invest some brain power.

When you're planning out your plot twist, write down the first idea that pops into your head.

Example: Inspector Emmi hunts down her best friend's murderer. Who did it?

First idea: The housekeeper (aka "the butler" or "the gardener") who was secretly in love with him, could never have him and has now acted out of jealousy.

Understand that your readers look forward to the climax, but when they are served exactly what they expected, the ending will feel stale and your audience disappointed. Your audience wants to be surprised.

Then try out another idea.

Example: It wasn't the housekeeper but a mutual friend of Emmi and Jo, who in turn was secretly in love with him and acted out of jealousy.

Think of more ideas as well. Your goal is to create something unexpected.

Ultimately, you want your reader to sit there in amazement and think, "Wow, I didn't see that coming! Unbelievable!” And yet it fits organically into the overall story.


Tip 2: Lay out subtle clues

A good story will seemingly lay out the entire story plainly for the audience to come to the wrong conclusion and fall for the plot twist.

For the plot twist to make sense you need to leave hints across the story that the audience may or may not pick up.

When you're dropping these hints, ask yourself where are the best places to hide these clues. Many times, the best way to hide a clue is during a scene where the audience and protagonist are too distracted by the action that's going on.

For example, if there is a fight scene, there can be enough moving parts to distract the audience from seeing the hints.

Some clues only emerge from the story itself, for example, when new evidence emerges in a crime novel that helps the detectives think in a different direction or discover connections previously unaware of them. This, too, can lead to a twist.

In storytelling, you have to resist revealing important information too early. Be patient! You want your reader to be surprised, so hold back anything he/she doesn't need to know at the given time.

Tip 3: Draw Attention To Something Else

I remember my first reading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone very well. In Chapter 6, information was mentioned in a subordinate clause, which later plays a decisive role in Chapter 13. You read the sentence but don't remember the content because you, the reader, are too busy trying to find your way around the "New World" (as is the protagonist). But the hint is there, and you could have spotted it.

Those are well-hidden clues (which there are tons in the Harry Potter books, by the way)e, but my attention as a reader is elsewhere. So hide your clues in subordinate clauses, or trivial actions, or use general chaos to intersperse them.

But be careful: attentive readers usually pick up the bait pretty quickly! So have your hiding place tested by trial readers before it is published.

Tip 4: Play With Expectations

When is a surprise effective? When I expect something, something else happens (as mentioned in tip 1). You can take advantage of every reader's expectations of a book.

An example –attention, spoiler alert! It's about the end of " Life of Pi "*. If you haven't seen the movie or read the book ("The Tiger Shipwreck"), please skip to the next point.

In "Life of Pi," the protagonist Pi tells us about his life, particularly the episode when he was the only one to survive the sinking of a freighter carrying zoo animals. He is accommodated on a lifeboat, which he now shares with a zebra and a hyena. Later an orangutan is added, and a tiger as well. It tells how the fight between the different animals and Pi looks, how they think they are almost saved but then have to flee from a strange island, and so on. When you see the film, you categorize it as a fantasy film.

In the end, however - and here comes the spoiler - it becomes clear that the animals were only symbolic of real people: Pi was not the only one to survive, but a cook (hyena) and a sailor (zebra) with him. His mother was also present (orangutan). The tiger represents Pi himself and his will to survive. The cook tried to save the injured sailor but was unsuccessful. He then used it as fishing bait and killed Pi's mother when she defended Pi in a fight. So the whole book or movie tells two stories; you'll never experience them as you did when you first read them before you knew the symbolism.

That makes a really good twist.

So the expectations of the story, which result from the genre, were exceeded. It's not just about animals, ominous magic islands, and supernatural occurrences, but about a tragic story between people and their belief in God.

You can use this to exceed expectations if you know what readers expect from the genre.

For example, in the books of the “Games of Thrones” series (“A Song of Ice and Fire ”*), a lot of characters die. You don’t think because the genre rules say the “good guys” don’t die – or if so, then please only one or two secondary characters that are dispensable. As soon as characters from the main cast die, you shock your readers as a writer. In this case, expectations are disappointing, but simultaneously, you build up a lot of tension because your readers know that no character is safe.

Tip 5: everything must happen at eye level!

The hero finds himself in a terrible situation. Then, finally, conditions come to a head. He'll never get out of there alive! He breaks out in a sweat, the walls get tighter, and suddenly the antagonist appears with his gun drawn. "That's it," he says and pulls the trigger... and your hero awakens from his nightmare.

Not only is this pathetic attempt at a "twist" now a cliché that you should avoid, but it does one thing above all: it fools the reader and makes them feel like they're being humiliated.

Writing novels also means asking the reader for trust. They believe you will tell them a good story. It is worth giving up household chores, shopping, television, other novels, or meeting friends to read the story you have made up. You tell them a fictitious truth – or a lie that is so sophisticated that they are still satisfied in the end because you arranged it so cleverly.

Your readers must never - excuse me - feel fooled. Otherwise, they might close the book and devote themselves to things that show them more respect.

As mentioned above, if you put 1 and 1 together, your Twists should be set up in a way that would have seen them coming. Readers can feel free to blame themselves for anticipating the twist if they'd paid more attention because it says you gave them everything they needed to know to come up with the idea themselves.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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