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How to Write a Killer Plot Twist – Part 2
Avoid the Gimmicks
Most readers will be emotionally invested in your story and that needs to pay off for them. Don’t ever have the plot twist happen in a way that they feel insulted or tricked. A good twist will always make their investment deeper.
This is why a dream sequence will rarely work. Something terrible is happening to the protagonist and then, all of a sudden, they wake up to find it was a dream. That isn’t a twist because the story very often goes downhill from there. It's not a twist, it’s a cliché and a very tired one at that. How do you get around this? Tell the reader the protagonist is dreaming beforehand and then have it end in an unpredictable way.
When you are writing, ask yourself:
Will this twist insult or trick my readers? How can I make it better for them?
Have I used clichés, intentionally or not, on any of the turning points in my book? Have these appeared in other books? How do I make them unique and fresh?
Write Towards the Reaction You Want
Think about the response you want from your readers and then set up your twist to play to that. There are three twist types that all have a different reaction – “No way!”, “Huh! Nice!” and “Oh, yeah!”
When you aim for the first one, your readers will need to be led to the certainty that there can only be one outcome. Convince them that your story is as it appears and then throw them a curveball, one that has them gasping with jaws dropped.
With the second one, you need to do the opposite – lead them into uncertainty, the feeling that they have no idea where the story is going. They won't suspect just one person; they will suspect everyone and then, when you finally reveal who it was, they will see that’s the way the story was heading all along.
And with the last one, you need to make it clear that your main character is clever in the way they get out of an impossible situation. He or she may have a skill or a gift that they can use, something that you told the readers about before but they weren’t considering when it got to the end – when it becomes clear, they will sit there and realize that they knew it all along; they just forgot.
Keep your story on the move relentlessly but keep it surprising, believable and deeper than it appears at first glance.
When you are writing, ask yourself:
If I want my readers shocked with the plot twist, have I led them in the certainty they need to think they know the ending?
If I want my readers to have several suspects and outcomes, have I built up all those outcomes in the right way?
If I want my readers cheering, have I given my protagonist an impossible situation to get out of? Have I given them the grit they need to get out of it without any help from another person?
Learn these mastery levels and your writing will be way more successful than you ever dreamed possible!
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Anne-Marie Reynolds