C.B. is a good friend of mine, beta read the first half of Lady dragon, Tela Du for me (Which means that she didn't get to my great plot twists). I've read her Twinepathy, and quite enjoyed it. I haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet, but I put my stamp of approval on its cover.
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Writing a Plot Twist
Hello, friends! As a quick intro, I’m C.B. Cook, author of Twinepathy and Paralyzed Dreams. I’m a college student and indie author, and I’m super excited to be here on Kendra’s blog for the Indie Author E-Con. I’ve been asked to talk to you about plot twists, so let’s get into the post!
We can all admit that sometimes writing plot twists can be… challenging. Sure, random plot bunnies may pop into your head all the time, but how do you pick the right plot twist to go with (because you can’t do them all!)? How do you make your plot twist truly impact your reader? Picking a plot twist can be made easier if you eliminate some options by determining that they are clichés, so to begin with, I’ll go over a few of these clichés. After that, we’ll go over your characters’ reactions. If your character reacts in the right way, your reader will, too. Then I’ll wrap it all up with a few basic dos and don’ts!
Note: I will be using examples in this post, so if you don’t know about a certain plot twist in the original Star Wars trilogy ( you know the plot twist I’m talking about), there are SPOILERS in this post.
Plot Twist Clichés
The whole point of a plot twist is for something unexpected to happen in your story, taking everything in a new direction. And something that does the complete opposite of that is a cliché. The list below outlines several of these clichés, and possible ways to mix it up.
· It was all a dream. The first time you read one like this, it’s an interesting twist. After the twentieth time, it becomes a turn-off in any book. How could you use this? What about having the main character wake up in his bed and think it was all a dream, but then find out… nope! It was all real! Or, if you don’t want it to be real, have the plot be a story the main character was telling someone else.
· Surprise! That character didn’t actually die! (AKA Marvel Syndrome) This twist is sometimes a celebration (because who wants their favorite character to die?), but in all honesty, it dramatically cuts down on those feels readers love so much. Sometimes you have to be willing to kill off a character for real. Way to mix this one up? What if your main character thinks someone is alive again, but it turns out to be someone else pretending to be that character? Ooooh!
· That character we trusted was actually working for the bad guys the whole time! Sometimes, when I start reading a book or watching a TV series with a team or a group of characters, I try to figure out which one is going to be evil. And whether my choice is right or wrong, any character “turning evil” simply becomes a huge annoyance to me (especially if it’s a character I like). How could this be fixed? What if the character is suspicious and thinks a member of his team is working for the bad guys, but in reality, he’s been working with the bad guys unknowingly.
· The main character knew the antagonist. This is one I’m sooo tired of seeing. Star Wars did it great with Darth Vader being Luke’s dad, and since then, all villains seem to be related to or old friends of the main character. What about a villain the main character doesn’t know, but thinks they do? Or what about a villain they knew in second grade but don’t remember at all?
These are a few of the plot twists that have been done far too many times. The whole point of a plot twist is to be original, so don’t copy someone else’s plot twist just because theirs was successful. Plus, a cliché will pull your reader out of the story, rather than pull them in deeper, like a plot twist should. So stay away from clichés!
After the plot twist itself, you have to think about the characters’ reactions. Different people react to different situations in different ways. Some people (or characters) are very emotional, while some hide their emotions and bury their feelings. Girls react differently than boys, and older people react differently from younger people. Extroverts will react differently from introverts, too.
If you want to show your reader how much a plot twist affects your character, show them how emotionally unstable the twist has made the character. Obviously, the situation changes the reaction as well. A really emotional character might cry if someone they know dies, but they might immediately react with fury if another character betrays them. In a good twist, someone who hides their emotions may actually smile, or in a negative twist, maybe all you see is the character’s clenched jaw or slightly slumped posture. Or say your character has a surprise parent reveal, much like in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader tells Luke that he is his father. Luke has a moment where his eyes grow wide, and then he starts to say no, moving into denial. We see Luke’s POV, and we empathize with him, pulling us deeper into his emotional struggle.
Remember, the aftermath of a plot twist is important. If you wrote the twist itself successfully, your reader is already shocked. Figure out what you want to turn your reader’s emotions into—delight, sadness, sympathy for your character? Then figure out how best to get that response from your reader.
Dos and Don’ts of Plot Twists
Do surprise the reader.
Don’t do something completely random to surprise your reader.
Do study your favorite books and study how their plot twists work.
Don’t copy those plot twists!
Do test your plot twist out with your beta-readers.
Don’t forget to work out plot holes your plot twist may introduce.
DO be creative! That’s what plot twists are all about. So get out there, brainstorm, and write that plot twist.