Doing Plot Twists the Right Way

(Which is not to say I know how…Fake it ’til you make it, right?)

Let me start off with the caveat that not everybody appreciates plot twists. There are folks out there who’s idea of escapism is a simple romance novel that hits all the appropriate points — girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl eventually gets her head out of her…ahem…and relocates girl to live happily ever after.

There’s nothing wrong with that story. Romance novels are fifty percent of the book market regardless of literary snobs who sneer at those who read and write it. (Sour grapes.)

Personally I enjoy books that utilize plot twists. It’s a magnificent feeling to read a book and BAM! Everything changes! Holy moly!

Of course, the plot twist has to be within reason. The best writers can create a believable situation and completely turn it upside down in a manner that makes sense.

There are constraints in writing romance with a plot twist. Romance readers want that happy ending. That’s why they buy our books–to live vicariously through our main protagonists as they deal with external and internal forces before they come together in the end.

I have to admit that I’m not good at this. The occasional email will hit my inbox congratulating me for a plot twist, but I haven’t mastered the skill by a long shot.

So I’ve compiled a list of examples and website tools for both our benefits. Maybe if I read enough examples and check the various generators, I (and you) will better understand how plot twists work!

Movies

There are a number of good movies that have used plot twists to their benefit. (Spoilers ahead!)

    Fight Club – Who wasn’t surprised at the end of that movie to discover the truth about Tyler Durdan?
    Sixth Sense – This one hit me like a ton of bricks! It never occurred to me that Dr. Malcolm Crowe was deceased.
    Empire Strikes Back – I actually saw this movie when it first came out (yes, I’m that old.) I remember everyone in the theater hearing, “Luke, I am your father,” and the collective gasp of surprise from the audience. Whoa!
    Hand of God – This is an Amazon Prime original, and it’s flat out awesome! The premise is a crooked man who has found God…as in God personally speaks to him. Throughout the first season you follow him as he continues his crooked ways because God is instructs him to do so. But is he hearing God or is he suffering a mental illness? Just when you think it’s one, something happens that can only be explained by the other. ARGH!

Books

Novels also have awesome plot twists. (Duh, right? This article is about the writing of plot twists.) Again–spoilers ahead!

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn – – Amy Dunne disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary, and her husband Nick is the main suspect. His life is ruined and his interactions are construed in either direction. Is he truly innocent or has he killed her.
    Harry Potter, by JK Rowling – Granted there aren’t a lot of plot twists in this series until you get toward the end. Who’s the Half-Blood Prince? Who is the child that was supposed to grow up to face Voldermort? And where’s the seventh horcrux?
    Newsflesh, by Mira Grant – Yeah, okay, these are zombie novels…sorta. But as an example of kickass plot twists, this series rules. This is not your regular “zombiepocalypse” book. That happened twenty years ago. Society has learned to live with the threat–we still have homes, radio, internet, government, ramped up security measures, etc. Zombies are there, but not the be-all, end-all of the tale. We follow a trio of up-and-coming young internet journalists on the biggest story of their careers–the presidential election!

    (In my first read through of the Newsflesh series, I had three specific, “O. M. G!” moments. THREE. Not only did I read this series through twice in a row, I’ve read it at least two more times since…and I just found it a year ago. I can’t rave about it enough.)

Internet

Last but not least are the number of plot twist generators and articles on the web. Plug the phrase into any search engine and you’ll come up with multiple links.

    Seventh Sanctum – These guys have the best generators of all time, including a plot twist section.
    Writer’s Digest – Here’s an article about creating plot twists with a list of steps to follow.
    Writer’s Den – This looks like a good plot generator as well. I could see using it to get over a bit of writer’s block in a novel.
    Terribleminds – Chuck Wendig has a hilarious and profane list of ways to perplex your readers. NSFW warning here!

Conclusion

Hopefully I’ve offered enough food for thought in relation to creating plot twists. I know I’ve got a number of articles to read! (And I think I’ll go back and reread my Newsflesh series!)

If you’re a reader, what recent books have you read that contain cool plot twists? As a writer, are there tricks you utilize to confound your readers–in a good way? Let’s share! Click below and comment! I want to hear from you!


A fan-geek and internet junkie, D Jordan Redhawk is an award winning writer of lesbian romance, writing in multiple genres. She highlights the outsider and reveals that we are not all that different from one another. Her books are published by Bella Books. You can reach Redhawk through her website, Facebook, or become a Patron!


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12 thoughts on “Doing Plot Twists the Right Way

  1. Love the examples used here. This was a great ‘show’ and ‘tell’. Thanks! And, frankly, you’re right about romance. I’m working on one now that’s a bit different in approach but I know the end has to be with girl and girl enjoying their happily ever after. It’s tough to write it differently but to still hit the expected tropes.

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  2. Great post, Jordan! Plot twists are delightful most of the time, and I still struggle with the darn things! Great examples and a fantastic rundown of some great generators. Thanks for sharing 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Jesse! Don’t sell yourself short though…writing mysteries ain’t easy if you don’t have some ability at twisting the tale. I could never write what you do. Uh uh!

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