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.
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 Plot Twist – Step by step
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 fitting them into your story, leaving behind tiny hints that readers should barely notice, and bringing a smile on your readers’ faces – these are the tough parts when looking for how to write a plot twist.
Table of Content
How to write a plot twist – Help yourself with this table for easy navigation:
- Get Into Your Readers’ shoes
- Make Sure Your Plot Twist is Credible
- Misdirect Your Readers
- Use Another Plot Twist For Misdirection
- Take Feedback about the Story Plot from a Friend
- Edit Your Story Plot
One reason why crafting a plot twist is difficult is because you’ll never know how many hints should you go away – how much is too much? A reader’s interest drops either way – he can’t understand what’s going on – or also when it’s too obvious. Even with a great plot in your mind, penning it down needs some before-hand experience.
Considering you’re starting out as a freshman, it’ll be nothing short of a miracle for a flawlessly crafted story. And should you be one, I’d 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 beautiful by themselves. While writing short stories is a craft, the elements of crafting and engaging a reader remain the same.
Check out this article:
Anyway, back to writing a plot twist, the first thing to look out for is the reader’s perspective.
Step 1: Get Into Your Readers’ shoes
You never know when your plot twist is really a twist until you read it yourself from a reader’s perspective. It only goes wrong two 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: Not enough hints or a messed up plot that drives your reader’s attention away from the main plot. It gets too complicated to follow or the story seems to be going nowhere.
Either way, you’ll lose your reader’s attention. The best way to avoid them is to keep the story’s hints subtle. DON’T spoonfeed your readers. They’ll figure out the hints when you try too hard. It could even insult them when you undermine their intelligence.
Make it in a way that the reader goes through it and yet considers it. But when they make it to the climax, that’s when they’ll look back at that tiny hint.
When you have many plot twists in your story, drop 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, keep it realistic. Make it unexpected, but still realistic. Unless you’re writing children stories with fairies and goblins where anything 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 – because the puzzle fits in neatly at the end. 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.
Step 3: Misdirect Your Readers
How to write a plot twist: 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 leading them to expect something else. Even a line portraying a character’s emotion provides for a great misdirection.
Like the hints, don’t overdo it. People who’ll read it are and will always be readers – they’ll 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.
Check out this article for story organization:
Here’s an example of misdirection:
- A small sneaky action of a character in the story that doesn’t affect the main plot.
Writing stories is an art. Here are some decent courses I picked out just for you on Udemy to kickstart your writing. Hurry before you miss out on great deals! :
- Short Story Writing For Beginners
- Write Stories With a Twist
- The Easy Way to Write Short Stories That Sell
Step 4: Use Another Plot Twist For Misdirection
The possibilities are endless when it comes to outlining your story for a book. It’s about how far your creativity pushes you. This one sounds a little sophisticated, but you’ll make a great deal once you get it. 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. When its base is strong and is 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 gaping 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, leading your readers to the first small plot twist with them being aware doesn’t count as a 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 something you can make use of. Otherwise, misdirections and foreshadowing mentioned in the above steps are enough to craft a fantastic story.
Another article to check out:
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 wouldn’t perceive the plot the way people should. So find a colleague, your teacher, or even better – a friend who reads, and ask their honest opinion about it. Ask them what they’d expected from that plot twist you planned. Real readers love engrossing themselves in a story that’s interesting. And a short story is something that’s meant to be read in a single sitting.
Say your friend picks up your story and drops reading halfway, makes an excuse or so to read it later- consider it as feedback too.
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 in case 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 appears ugly when one point mentioned above goes wrong. 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! Whether you get great feedback on your plot twist or not, editing is essential – especially when you’re writing a short story.
In a story, every word counts. Especially for a short story, every paragraph demands the reader’s attention to read the next.
Weeding out unnecessary lines: When a line doesn’t contribute to your plot in any way, not even a misdirection, weed it out when you edit. You can 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’ve 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:
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 to check out the page yourself (some answers are amazing and on 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 doesn’t help you improve the plot idea or identify the loose ends in your story, but it provides a small layer of editing. The free version of Grammarly should be enough to help you here.
Other posts you might like:
- Complete Writers Work review (2020 Update)
- How To End a Short Story the Right Way
- Best Time To Write Anything
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