How To Write a Great Plot Twist

how to write a great plot twist

Everyone can write a story. What’s important is how you craft it. And plot twists are the key elements that make it all more alluring to read. That’s where you could really get stuck. While every writer has a unique way around getting in plot twists, these are some points that’ll help you build them efficiently – points that’ll help you see where you can potentially go wrong. Here goes how to write a plot twist.

One great example of a story with great plot twists is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. If the movie Parasite was a novel first, it’d be another favorite of mine. One thing both have in common is the attention it grasps.

Let me not give away its spoilers, but keeping a reader engaged while you make unexpected plot twists is what makes a story sweet.

How To Write A Great Plot Twist

Figuring out a plot twist idea isn’t a big deal. Here’s a bunch of plot twist ideas I penned down – feel free to use them. But seamlessly fitting them into your story, leaving behind tiny hints that readers should barely notice, and finally bringing a smile on your readers’ faces – these are the tough parts.

write a plot twist

One reason why crafting a plot twist becomes difficult because you’ll never know how much of a hint should you go away. How much is too much? A reader’s interest can drop either way – he can’t understand what’s going on – or also if it’s too obvious. You might have a great plot in your mind, but penning it down will need some before-hand experience.

Considering you’re starting out as a beginner, it’ll be nothing short of a miracle if your story’s flawlessly crafted. And should you be one, I’d highly recommend trying out your twists with short stories first. Write a lot of them. Let short stories be your practice grounds.

They take less time compared to a whole book, but they’re beauties by themselves. While writing short stories is a craft on its own, the elements of crafting and engaging a reader remain the same with any story. Check out how to write a short story.

Anyway, back to writing a plot twist, the first thing we’ll need to keep an eye out for is the reader’s perspective.

Step 1: Get Into Your Readers’ shoes

You’ll never know when your plot twist is really a twist until you read it yourself from a reader’s perspective. It can only go two wrong ways:

Case 1: You break down your twist too much and give too many hints for your reader. It becomes too obvious for the reader to anticipate the lead character’s next move.

Case 2: You don’t leave enough hints or simply mess up the plot and drive your reader’s attention too far from the main plot. Once it gets too complicated to follow or say the story seems to be making it nowhere, the reader will put down your story.

In either of the cases, you’ll lose your reader’s attention. The best way to avoid them is to keep the story’s hints subtle. Do NOT spoonfeed your readers. They’ll figure out the hints when you try too hard. It could even insult them when you undermine their intelligence.

It should be in a way that the reader will go through it and yet consider it a minor point. But when they make it to the climax, that’s when they’ll look back at that tiny hint.

If you have many plot twists in your story, drop a number of these tiny crumbs before you make it to the twists.

Step 2: Make Sure Your Plot Twist is Credible

You’ve got your whole story planned and crafted out. Great! Placing all the cards right, you even carefully placed your plot twist in its right place and left just enough hints for the reader to pick up. But what about the plot twist?

By credible, I mean to keep it realistic. It shouldn’t be expected, but still realistic. Unless you are writing children stories with fairies and goblins where anything at all is possible, this is something to keep an eye on.

However, there’s a catch. We also have certain stories like Angels and Demons by Dan Brown where the ending (no spoilers, I promise) simply seems far-fetched. But we still love it, don’t we? It didn’t make it to the best-sellers’ list for no reason. Why? It’s because of how neatly the puzzle fits in. Though far-fetched, it isn’t baseless.

Every small point leads to the climax without the reader taking notice. Thus, leaving the reader to realize all the crumbs in place after getting over the main twist.

Note: Here, I do not address the points made on religion, places, and beliefs in Dan Brown’s book. We’re only talking about how to write a plot twist here.

Step 3: Misdirect Your Readers

Similar to the hints you drop, or foreshadowing your reader, use misdirection in a mild manner. Lead your readers away from the main plot.

It doesn’t necessarily mean shifting your characters away or introducing a dummy character. A misdirection is as simple as planting an idea into your reader’s mind which leads them to expect something specific. Even a line or two portraying a character’s emotion can be used for a great misdirection.

Just like the hints, don’t overdo it. People who’ll read it are and will always be readers – they can sense when you try something fishy. Outsmart them without letting them know the slight change was actually a misdirection you used.

Speaking of misdirections, a pantser has a greater advantage here than a plotter. No worries to those organizing the story beforehand – all it requires is a tiny nudge to turn your reader’s head away for a while.

Here is an example of misdirection:

  • A small sneaky action of a character in the story that doesn’t affect the main plot.

plot twist misdirection

Writing stories is an art. If you’re really want to sink in deep into the world of writing, plots, and so on, why don’t you learn it professionally? While you’re stuck at home, here’s a great course on Udemy to kickstart your writing I found with great ratings that might just be something you’re looking for.

Step 4: Use Another Plot Twist For Misdirection

The possibilities are really endless when it comes to outlining your story for a book. It’s all about how far your creativity pushes you. This one sounds a little sophisticated, but you’ll make a great deal out of it once you get it. You can refer to this other plot as a subplot.

Let your readers be aware of this plot while you build the actual main plot – thus resulting in a misdirection. However, unlike a dummy misdirection that serves no purpose to the plot build-up, this sub-plot will have its own path through the story. It may or may not come across the main plot.

Sometimes it’s hard to simply refer to it as a sub-plot. If its base is strong and is firmly relatable to the reader’s emotion, the sub-plot can later turn out to be the main plot. Let both the plots (or more than two) run simultaneously. Leave your readers gapping with a plot twist when they realize there was another plotline for it the whole time – ‘oh, that’s what was going on there…’

All in all, you’ll blast out a plot twist at the end which your readers have already presumed, but then the real climax – the bigger plot twist was saved for later. Ultimately in the case, if you lead your readers to the first small plot twist with them being aware, it doesn’t count as a plot twist – at least not a great one. The real plot twist was being led to subtly the whole time.

I did consider this as step 4, but it isn’t a requirement to add in a sub-plot and a conscious plot twist. This is just something you can make use of when you’re good at it. Otherwise, misdirections and foreshadowing mentioned in the above steps are enough to craft a fantastic story.

Another article you might like: How Long Should a Short Story Be?

Step 5: Take Feedback about the Story Plot from a Friend

You’ve done planning and writing down your first draft of the story. To the best of your knowledge, you’ve built and placed your plot twists in the right spots. Great! But this is all your perspective. Even when you look at your own story from a reader’s perspective, it’s still your story. You’ve seen the same scripts or had the same idea running in your mind too many times.

You may not perceive the plot the way people would. So find a colleague, your teacher, or even better – a friend who reads, and ask their honest opinion about it. Ask them if they’d expected that plot twist you had planned. Real readers love engrossing themselves in a story that’s interesting. And a short story is something that is meant to be read in a single sitting.

If your friend picks up your story and drops reading halfway, makes an excuse or so to read it later- consider that as feedback as well.

Typically, one finds more plot twists in thrillers and mysteries. When you’re leading to a plot twist at the end of the story, the twist isn’t the only important part of your creativity, it’s how you keep your readers on their feet. Every next part of your story should get their hearts beating faster.

Then the next phase of touching up on your story comes in. After noting down the feedback, get back to editing.

Step 6: Edit Your Story Plot

Remember this is only your first draft of the story.

Don’t worry if your friend doesn’t find the plot as exciting as you anticipated it would. Here are three things to look into to see where you went wrong:

  • How bizarre your plot twist is – Is it too plain? Or just unrealistic?
  • Placement of the twist – Did you place the twist too early?
  • Suspense from the beginning – Could the plot build tension as it proceeded to the climax?

The whole plot can appear ugly if you go wrong with one point mentioned above. Try altering according to each point. For a plot with mediocre feedback, a  few tweaks should fix your plot.

Your friend loved your story? Hold on for a moment! Whether you get great feedback on your plot twist or not, editing is essential – especially if you’re writing a short story.

If you’re writing a story, every word counts. Especially for a short story, every paragraph should demand the reader’s attention to read the next one. If a line doesn’t contribute to your plot in any way, not even a misdirection, weed it out when you edit. You may even find plot holes where the ends don’t meet – something which both, you and your friend hadn’t noticed earlier.

I’d recommend taking some time away from your draft for a while before you sit down to edit.

Keep your mind free and open to new ideas. When you get back to editing, you’ll be able to clearly see what should have been placed where, or whatever isn’t necessary. Then the whole process repeats: Ask another friend who hasn’t read it yet to read the second draft and take feedback. Do this until you’re satisfied with your plot.

Read more about editing: How To Edit a Short Story

TailPiece

That would be all to contribute on how to write a plot twist.

I checked out Quora for ways to come up with great plot twists. I thought it’d be great if you checked out the page for yourself (some answers are amazing and to the point!) – Quora.

Here’s a bonus tip to those typing their stories, use Grammarly for the tiny grammatical and spelling mistakes you could’ve missed. It can’t help you improve the plot idea or identify the loose ends in your story, but it does provide a small layer of editing. The free version of Grammarly should be enough to help you here.

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How To End a Short Story the Right Way

Maddy

Hi there! I'm an 19-year-old dude who loves to travel. Well, still too young for that, but I travel around whenever I get a chance- and I never miss out writing on any of 'em! Being experienced in the writing world, I also write reviews of writing agencies and companies.

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