Plot Twists

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Plot Twists

Like twist endings, plot twists can be accomplished in several ways. But usually, plot twists are usually the result of setting up expectations and then meeting those expectations in an unexpected way. For example, you might set up a fight scene, but deliver a fight between different characters than expected. Or set it in an unexpected place. Or let the fighters use unexpected weapons.

One way to set up expectations is through foreshadowing. This technique is a way to give a preview of action to come. For example, in The Empire Strikes Back, the second of the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker knows he must face Darth Vader at some point. As part of his training to be a Jedi, Yoda tells Luke to go into a cave. There, he sees a vision of Darth Vader and fights, wining the battle by striking off Vader’s head with a light sabre. Luke opens Vader’s visor and finds his own face inside Vader’s mask. It’s a warning and foreshadowing of the actual battle to come, where Luke loses to Vader, yet wins his soul by refusing to join the Dark Side.

False alarms can also act as foreshadowing for a plot twist. Let’s say that a boy’s imagination tends to go wild. Twice, he’s been sure that a wolf was going to attack, so he races home. The next day, he’s walking home again and hears something slinking in the grass, following him. We expect a wolf, right? When the tiger attacks, we’re both expecting it and surprised by it.

Expect the Unexpected

If you set up a pattern of plot twists from the start, then a reader will stay with you to find out what your devious mind has planned next.

Raymond Obstfeld, in his book Fiction First Aid , suggests you write yourself into a corner. Make the opposite happen and see what happens. Don’t allow yourself to use a cliche to get out of this bind; instead, make something unexpected happen.  Surprise even yourself.

Any other suggestions for creating twists?

Any great examples to suggest we read?

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3 Comments
  • Clive
    August 30, 2007

    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne. This is a fable with a sad twist to this holocaust story.

  • Darcy
    August 31, 2007

    I’ll look for that one. Sounds interesting.

    Darcy

  • Clive
    August 31, 2007

    The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a huge hit in Europe. Shooting of the movie is happening as I write. The movie was fast-tracked. It is a very good read, but not without its flaws.