Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Key-Word Cavalry: Plot twists that everyone loves.

Due to a variety of reasons (and probably because the google gremlins like me), my blog usually shows up very high in most writing-related searches. Some others too, but that's not the point.

Most of the blogging related key-words do have some answers somewhere in the bowls of this blog, but a few of them slip through the cracks. Or they don't get their due attention from me.

Because of that, I'm getting into the habit of checking the key-words every week and see if I can answer the implied questions every Wednesday except for the first one of every month. I might even invite others to join my war on writing ignorance soon, but for today, I'll fight alone.


It's harder when writing.

Plot twists that everyone loves. Now the idea that I get from the phrase is that whoever did this search wants a list that he/she can throw into his/her story at random to get an exciting and lovable manuscript.

Uhm... sadly, my deluded lost one, I have to say that there is no such list. Even if it did, do you really want to chuck in all sorts of popular (and most likely hackneyed) twist into your story?

Don't say yes.

In order to have plot twists that everyone loves, you need to create them in a way that everyone will love.

How are you supposed to do that?

Firstly, by constructing your story well enough to carry the twist without stressing the reader's suspension of disbelief too far. The secret to this is in lying the foundation early on. NOTHING annoys a reader as much as Deus ex Machina (the appearence of a plot solution out of thin air) in any story, so make sure that every twist you write in has its origins in some point earlier on.

Long lost uncles and aunts no longer cut it. Nor does a twist born out of existent roots but insufficient detail. I'm looking at you, Master Crime Writer Who Annoys the Crap Out of Me.

Yes, your main characters are allowed to be super smart or almost invincible (although, where's the fun in that?), but panning away from the character's view point in order to maximize suspense and then have him/her save the day without us being there to see it happen, is a cop-out. 

And no one likes a cop-out. Look out for variations of these words in your manuscript: "It happened like this..." "It was as simple as...", "The villain thought this, but in reality..."

If you really want a plot twist that everyone loves, make sure that there are ample subtle hints that the twist is possible throughout the story (no, I can't stress this enough). Then distract the reader from it so that they don't think about it until it happens. When it comes to a plot twist, the reader reaction you should always strive for is as follows:

1) What?!
2) How?!
3) Oh! I should have seen this coming.

Less than this is acceptable, but mediocre. Less than this will have readers liking/tolerating your twist, but not loving it.

What say you, writing friends? How does one create plot twists that everyone loves?


  1. Ah, great post and very true! You have to layer it in, right from teh beginning, don't you? Lay the foundation for the plot twist so it's believable.

    Great post, and happy new year!

  2. Excellent post and love the idea of using key-words for writing a post. As for plot twists...sometimes a bit of subtle fore-shadowing works, but you have to be careful not to use it too much.

  3. Well thought out and written post.Maybe a peppering of character or event in the initial stages, a sneaky narrative that is not backstory but gives you the ammo to bring the twist.

  4. You're right on the money about foreshadowing and layering it in before you put the whammy on your readers. I love a delicious twist!

  5. You're absolutely right - a plot twist cannot just come "out of nowhere". Foreshadowing is extremely important. I always think that if I went back and reread the book, I should be able to pick out all the "crumbs" the author dropped in their trail on the way to the twist. If not, then... where the heck did it come from?

    It's also very interesting, this keyword thing you're doing. I hardly ever check what keywords lead to my blog. Though I have several times, and some of them have been STRANGE!

  6. A plot twist done with skill can totally make a story incredible.

  7. I needed this post! I have a couple of plot twists in my WIP, but I think I've gone the other route~ I think I was paranoid that it would seem to come out of NOWHERE, so I went out of my way to go back and add hints. Probably too many hints, though, so I'll have to go take some out :)

  8. I am so clueless on that keyword bit. I hope you will write something to educate me soon.

  9. Hi Misha! I hope the new year has been good to you so far :D

    I love plot twists if they are well developed, as you said. One of the best plot twisters out there (in the movie world that is) is M. Night Shyamalan. He is able to through things into the mix that you never saw coming but when you rewatch the film, you see all the subtle little hints that were left along the way. Like microscopic bread crumbs.

    Great post!

  10. Oh, plot twists! So much fun to read and so darn tricky to write. I love them, though. I love putting little things in, hints that might go unnoticed until the pieces fall into place, and then the reader goes, "OH!"

  11. I despise Deus ex machina endings. I read a book that had one (god-like people literally appeared and fixed everyone's--including the MC's--problems) and never tried that author again.

    I know I'm really guilty of the "The villain thought this, but in reality..." hints. I'm rereading the first draft of my rewriting project and I'm finding them all over the place.

  12. A plot twist can be an important and powerful part of the story.
    Reminds me of a film where a middle-aged man is on the internet with a teenage girl and they agree to meet. This guy looks like a rough character. He puts a revolver in the glove-box of his car and drives to meet her at a cafe. My spouse and I think it's going to come to no good.
    Turns out he is on the lam for a gang theft that paid for his daughter's serious illness and she is the one he meets.
    Well, learning that, we changed and started rooting for him because the gang members show up at the cafe.

  13. Awesome post!

    I've had two people looking to see if there is going to be a sequel the the movie Tangled. LOL I was breaking down the movie according to story structure, and it was a two part post. :D

  14. That cartoon cracked me up, Misha! I think The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series did a nice job handling a whole bunch of twists. He kept you guessing, but it wasn't a HUGE or UNBELIEVABLE surprise. Anyway, nice post. And I want to know who the master crime writer is (the one who annoys you)...

  15. Great post. I notice the more in films now when something apparently insignificant at the beginning turns out to be key in the end of the story. I love doing flash fiction with plot twists.

  16. Duo, layering is such a good way to put it. Since the hints must by hidden under enough layers so that the reader won't spot the hints and predict the ending. :-)

    Bish, foreshadowing is a wonderful thing, but it can so easily be done wrong.

    Rek, those are all the ingredients one needs.

    Jessica, I think any writer worth his/her salt loves a delicious twist.

    Rachel I also get some FREAKY key-words, but don't worry, I won't blog about them unless I really have nothing else to write about. ;-)

    I agree, Mike. A plot twist can make or break a story.

    Jess, yeah the secret here is balance. Not too many hints, not too few. Good luck! (And welcome to my blog.)

    Wendy, I plan to arrange it just for you. ^_^

    Jen I know what you mean. I loved The Sixth Sense even though someone spoilt the ending for me. Because then I got to enjoy the fine points of the clues that are ambiguous, yet clear. Brilliant. :-)

    Laura, they can be a ton of fun to write. In fact, I think half the fun lies in the foundation laying.

    Golden I also hate Deus ex, but I'm finding that the "what really happened" spiel is getting to me more. The first is just a stupid author. The second is an author who thinks I'm stupid.

    Anthony that sounds like an awesome movie. I'd love to watch it.

    Lol Stina, Tangled had a brilliant plot. The writers left nothing out. And I checked. Twice.

    Hahaha Samantha I loved it too. It's just so deliciously dark. :-)

    Madeleine, I think that's a trend for the better. I hate movies where events occur seemingly without reason.

    Thanks Traci. I'm glad you liked it. Welcome to my blog.

  17. Across the Universe did a great job of planting clues and distractions for a very satisfying plot twist. Once in a while one can come out of the blue and work - because it's not a plot twist so much as a concept twist that comes near the end. Does that make sense? Falling Under by Gwen Hayes had this.

  18. Agree, writing is one of the most difficult jobs...


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