Writing Hacks: How to Pull Off Plot Twists

Posted on Jun 20, 2017

Bet You Didn’t See This Lesson Coming!

We see two very opposite characters constantly clash with one another, and we get to the point where we wonder who will die first, but hold on... they were actually one and the same person! After seven books of wondering, Dumbledore’s memories finally reveal: Snape is one of the good guys. All this time we have been led to believe that Luke and Darth Vader are tied only by hatred, but plot twist! Darth Vader is actually Luke’s father!

These are just some of the most memorable and best-executed plot twists in both literature and movies. Plot twists are moments wherein the story takes an unexpected turn. As a writer, being able to create effective and well-timed plot twists is essential in keeping readers hooked to your story.

Once upon a time

Plot twists are also great storytelling devices because they are very versatile. They can be used to separate story acts, expose something about the characters, close an arc and open another one at the same time, or simply provide a break from a monotonous rise or fall of action. A plot twist is intended to keep the readers interested in the story or to make them crave more of it. However, there are writers who fall short when it comes to creating plot twists. Here’s a short guide:

  1. Know the different types of plot twists

    Yes, there is such a thing. In fact, there are three types of plot twist. A reveal is an exposition of one of the story’s elements or an answer to a question asked throughout the whole story. A shock reverses an established or mentioned truth. A clever twist takes constraints of the story and creates something interesting from it.

  2. Stay away from the obvious

    Make a list of plot twists that could happen in the story. Now that’s done, cross the top of the list—those are the obvious ones. The first thing that comes to your mind will likely be the first thing that your readers will assume as well. Inversely, something you can do is tell the readers everything. Present them with all the possibilities early on. Yes, they will know what the twist is, but they won’t know which one.

  3. Consider from whom or from where the twist will come

    Your plot twist might be brought by a character, setting, motive, or another element of your story. Once you have a plot twist in mind, consider where it will be coming from. Does the twist seem realistic? Does it seem like something that the character will do? Does it seem like something that could happen in that location? Stay consistent and true to your story. Don’t create plot twists just for the sake of having them.

  4. Make use of foreshadowing and red herrings

    Good plot twists rely on how the readers’ expectations are twisted. Some writers make the mistake of dropping a plot twist out of nowhere. Plant ideas in your readers’ mind early on. Make use of red herrings to distract your readers. However, be careful when using these tools. Too little foreshadowing may make the twist feel out of place. Focusing too much on your red herrings may make the twist seem too far-fetched.

  5. Aim for good execution rather than uniqueness

    With the extensive archive of fiction that the world already has, creating a unique and mind-blowing plot twist is a real challenge. So instead of aiming for a unique, never-before-seen plot twist, aim for one that’s well placed, well written, and well executed.


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