Writing the Twist

M. Night Shyamalan

As per a suggestion by Eric J. Baker, I decided to write today about twists that we can place in our novels which can be used in pretty much any genre.  Good writers are good readers, avid readers, and I really love a good story that leads the reader down a path only to force them down a detour.

Here are a few:

  1. Broken Love Triangle – We all love this plot device, but what if we tweak it a little or break it so that one of the lovers is secretly the villain or one of them is only pretending to love the person in question?  What if the person who is sought after by the two rivals is completely uninterested in the both of them and has been seeing a third person on the side?
  2. Damned If You Do…– This one is used constantly on The Walking Dead and was what made Lost such a great series.  The hero is given two very solid decisions, both having ugly consequences either immediately or down the road and then chooses something that readers would not expect or makes a decision to run away from the two decisions or avoid them entirely.
  3. Sudden Death – I love planning out the lives of characters, but (and I promise my grin right now is not morbid at all) I love planning their demise as well.  I planned the death of a major character early in my last novel This Broken Earth, but it was indeed necessary to further the character development of one of the characters that would be surviving for the rest of the novel.  It didn’t make his death any less painful for the reader, but was a huge surprise when it happened.  It was kind of like Dale’s death in The Walking Dead.  It was sad, but necessary to divide the group and eliminate their moral compass.
  4. Surprise Revelations – I absolutely love the Star Wars trilogy.  One of the coolest developments in the plot of the original trilogy was when Darth Vader said the famous words: “I am your father”.  Even as a kid it sent chills down my spine.  Revealing something secret about your main characters, something that changes the scope of the story is heart-pounding for a reader.  This is compounded when it is a villain that turns out to be someone that is completely misunderstood.  Yeah, Vader is a bad guy, but down deep “there is good in him.”
  5. Deep Sacrifice – I am partial to this plot device.  It is revealed that someone has made a huge sacrifice for another character simply because they love them or want them to succeed.  Remember that O. Henry short story “The Gift of the Magi” where we find out that the woman sold her hair to buy her husband a watch chain and he sells his watch to buy her a set of combs.  These kinds of cosmic irony are fantastic tricks to play on a reader, but make sure you have a reason to do this in the first place.  Henry’s message was that it is the thought that counts when giving gifts.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

2 thoughts on “Writing the Twist

  1. Hey thanks, Roger! Thanks for responding to my suggestion. Those are some great tips. You suggestions always have me thinking about ways to spice up my current project.

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