The plot twist is the simplest solution to any perceived problem in your novel, and is often shouted by frustrated NaNoWriMo novelists who have found their “Eureka!” moment.
Plot twists are also a) necessary, b) unavoidable, and c) a great way to keep your reader from getting bored.
First, what’s a plot twist? It can be as simple as an unexpected action (which, for reference purposes, Hollywood usually calls a reversal). For this, think of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones is suddenly faced with a swordfighter showing off his moves. At first, he’s terrified. This guy is going to behead him! He doesn’t even have a sword! He’s no swordfighter! But then a look of recognition crosses his face. He grabs his trusty pistol and simply shoots the sucker. BANG! Problem solved.
That’s a quick plot twist. There’s a setup (angry swordfighter! danger!), with an expected payoff (Indiana Jones is killed by angry swordfighter!), and then you yank the rug out and give a different result instead (Indy shoots the swordfighter).
Another awesome thing about that particular plot twist is that it was supposedly improvised by Harrison Ford. Nice work, Solo!
But back to our main focus… how else can you work in some plot twists?
Some of this depends on your genre. Mysteries, for instance, require far more plot twists than any other genre, though action/adventure stories also require quite a few twists and turns. When writing a romance, you may want to fake out your readers occasionally, but ultimately the ending isn’t going to be a surprise or switcheroo; we want to know that the main characters end up together, happily. But all genres need plot twists, to keep readers interested in the story. If they can see all of your plot points coming from a mile away, then something is wrong. It’s definitely time to stand up, shout “PLOT TWIST!”, and change things up.
The basic thing to remember is that ANYTHING can become a plot twist, if you let it. Now, I’m not talking about unintentional mistakes, such as accidentally describing your brown-eyed character as having blue eyes, but here’s an idea from a book I recently read that could have been a plot twist. The main character was told to find a red envelope stuck under a particular park bench. When she and her friend went out to find it, they ultimately discovered a yellow envelope instead. I kept waiting for it to be revealed that this was the wrong envelope, that the person who had sent them in search of the red one had actually left two envelopes, each with different instructions… but the red envelope never materialized. That could’ve been an interesting plot twist, particularly since this was a book about learning how to code, which requires following directions and precise input. Instead, I think it was simply an editing mistake. But think about the possibilities!
Whenever you’re stuck, ask yourself “What if?” Come up with a couple of different ideas and alternatives to the first thing that pops into your head, and see where they might lead. For every road, there’s always a fork. Take the less-traveled path. Follow that white rabbit. Explore plot twists, and have fun!
Want to prep with me?
Share one of YOUR story’s plot twists (preferably not a key plot point!), or tell us how your prepping is going in the comments. Or, post about your progress on your blog, and be sure to use the hashtag #Preptober when sharing on social media so we can find each other.
Don’t forget to grab a free copy of my Preptober Prompts Printable, which you can print out for personal use.
See you tomorrow with a new prompt!