Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do the Twist

by Patricia Cates

"Come on baby, let’s do the twist
…Come on baby, let’s do the twist
Take me by the little hand and go like this…"   

Chubby Checker makes it sound so fun! Actually there is a lot of thought, and plotting and planning, that go into a story twist, though. So how do we finagle that? How do we finesse a plot twist or a surprise ending? 

I’m pretty sure that back in 1959 “the twist” was much easier to do. At that point the best known novel for a good and shocking twist may have been Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  Now that almost feels predictable. Audiences have become savvy. Fight Club and Gone Girl have taken plot twists to a new level.  

So what can writers do in today’s world to attempt to bring something fresh and new to the table, and that will grab the attention of readers?  

I consulted the internet to find out what goes into a great novel surprise. (Funny how Wikipedia never lets me down! ) Here is a brief summary of some ideas I found for creating that twist you’ve been looking for: 

1.      Kill someone off that is important to your story. The reader never saw THAT coming. Yep just kill off a main character…fun!

2.     Make the narrator out to be a liar. The reader can find out mid story or later that they’ve been duped by someone’s point of view…it’s not the actual way things went down. Hmmm…

3.     Switch it up.  Make the perceptibly rich guy dirt-poor, or the bad guy actually good. Take the power away from the powerful and allow the weakling to rule. Simple.

4.     Make a double identity character. Ah ha! Make it even better by not allowing that character to be "in the know" about it. They won’t know who they really are! A lost twin? An heiress? A royal? Or worse.

5.     Create an unfolding and awful problem that results from a victory. Oh no! Oh yes!

6.     Let out a secret…it could be to the protagonist or the audience or the villain. (I like to give the villain the upper-hand, personally I feel it creates worry for the hero.)

7.     Expose a liar!!! Can a hero lie? You bet. Whoever you want to lie…make ‘em lie good. Dishonesty is good in this case.

8.     Create a base twist. After the initial plot is revealed, about a chapter later, let the reader realize the main obstacle is not the biggest problem…not even close. Make it tragic.

9.     Let the audience think the hero has won…and then pull the rug out from under him. Gotcha!

10.  Allow your reader to know something that the MCs don’t. This could keep them waiting for the secret information to be revealed. Let them believe this for a long time and then make it false, the true info is still secret. Shhhh…

Hopefully these few tips make plot twists feel almost as fun as dancing. C'mon baby...let's do the twist, sing it!

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