I love a good story twist. Gone Girl anyone? But I don’t like a story twist that falls flat. Recently I’ve noticed some problematic story twists in indie books and books yet to be published. It got me thinking about what makes a good story twist and what exactly made the twists fall flat for me. I noticed a few common themes among the twists that I wanted to share. So here’s the three biggest issues that I noticed, or the big three P‘s in plot twists.
Predictability: Some of the twists while not obvious to the characters, were glaringly obvious to me as a reader to the point I expected the twist and wasn’t surprised when it finally happened. To me it defeated the purpose of the twist since a good twist should surprise me. I want to be shocked. You don’t want to beat your readers over the head with obvious clues time and again or it will take away the element of surprise. Make your hints subtle. So how to make a twist unpredictable? You want to redirect reader suspicion. Make us expect one thing, then give us another. But as with my next point, make sure what you give us is believable.
Plausibility: One of my biggest issues with flat twists was that the twist itself didn’t read as plausible to me. I didn’t want to believe the twist because it didn’t feel right. Why didn’t it feel right? The character motivations didn’t match the twist. For instance if your villain is a turncoat but the little information we have on them sets them up to sound very loyal to the side they betrayed, they’d better have believable character motivations that fit their character. Motivations that don’t feel forced and in turn make the twist feel forced. The motivation needs to be strong enough to cause the twist and weak motivations will make readers doubt the character. Don’t make me think your character is about to go “Just kidding!” I want to be able to believe them and their motivations.
Plot Advancement: The plot twist needs to have a purpose beyond going “Surprise! Got you!” If the plot twist is only there to fool readers, it will feel weak. A well-executed twist will advance the plot and make readers eager to keep reading to find out how the characters handle the twist. A good twist, even if it’s not the outcome readers were hoping for, will get them excited about the story possibilities opened by the twist. In short, make sure your twist serves a purpose within the story itself and not just in fooling readers.
Having these three elements in your plot twist will help make it shine.