Would you believe this is the second time I’ve tried to write an article like this? For some reason, I find the concept of twists hard to describe, despite being so fond of them.
And I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it’s because they are themselves based on surprise and the unknown? A good twist you don’t see coming. And since I feel at least a little qualified to talk about it, I thought I’d give some advice on how to do a twist well.
In list form, of course, because this is the internet after all.
1.) Know The Twist Beforehand
If you want to write a twist story, one based around startling the reader–then know going in what the twist is going to be. Because otherwise the audience will feel cheated.
A surprise pulled out of the ass is exactly that, and is as annoying as you would think to the receiver.
2.) The Twist Must Make Sense
This is an extension of the first one. A twist, if properly made, seems obvious in hindsight.
It is a thing that exists and makes sense in the world, and the only reason the audience isn’t aware of it beforehand is because you, as the writer, didn’t tell them.
3.) The Clues Were Always There
People talk about movies or books or videogames that you need to experience twice, and that is what you’re aiming for when you have a twist. You plan it; you leave bread crumbs. The audience must be able to go back through and see the foreshadowing, the phrases and items and events that led up to it, and see how it came to be or how it was always there.
4.) A Twist Is Not Itself A Story
Really, that title gives you all the data you need to know. But I am going to reiterate it in a little more detail. It is fine, and acceptable, to write a story for the purpose of having a cool twist, but if the rest of it is boring, then you failed.
Unless of course you put the twist in soon enough to not lose them from boredom, but that is not an easy trick.
So, for most people, make sure the rest of the story is also good.
Make sure the characters are interesting, the tension tight, and the plot moving.
In other words: twists are a garnish, or a particularly flavorful spice, but are not the entire meal.
Special thanks to: Bob Gerkin, Collin Pearman, Dylan Alexander, Jerry Banfield, Michael The Comic Nerd, Pulsatilla Pratensis, and Thomas J. West.
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