Action keeps your attention and plot drives the story. Plot twists are both and more. Good surprises can really delight your readers. It is more fun to write unexpected endings as well since you start to giggle at this or that and wonder if the reader will understand the foreshadowing. And you write better when you enjoy it. So we can confirm that plot twists are good for everyone, but what defines a good plot twist?
Expecting the Unexpected
Good plot twists are not simply random surprising facts. The point of the twist is to make the reader look to the side and see something different and new. Not smack them in the face. They should relate to the world and be consistent with the underlying storyline. We still don’t want them to be obvious, it wouldn’t be fun then. But we need them to make sense.
One way to explain this is to say that you, as the writer, is trying to win a game of play that tune. It is a recognizable tune, but perhaps it is an obscure song or the beat is so common it could be anything. You want to make the game hard, but not impossible. When a reader does finally get it they should go “Oh! I can’t believe that happened, but it makes perfect sense now that I see it. Such a clever writer.”
There are different ways to lead up to the plot twist to make it feel seamless within the storyline. Subtle foreshadowing will set up the final scene in the first act. You can use red herrings which leads readers to believe the opposite of the reveal could happen. Sneaking in a line during a lot of action can make it seem unimportant until later. However you add in your hints, don’t go overboard with it.
It is also a good idea to write out your plot twist first and then go back to previously written pages and add in the foreshadowing. Imagine it as a magician practicing their show before performing. They need to know what they want the audience to see before they can work on hiding all of their tools.
Quality is more important than quantity. Key plot twists move the story in fantastic leaps and bounds, but too many of them can dilute the works and still be confusing. If something new happens every chapter, you begin to expect it and the impact lessens. Not every plot twist is important to the storyline or character development. Use the big ones that challenge morals and bring tension to the field. Keep the old ideas for future books, but focus on the best ones for your current story. They are worth the effort into getting them just right.
Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet