There’s nothing worse than finishing your first novel and finding out from your beta readers that the entire plot is predictable AF.
It almost feels like there’s no coming back from that. Like, the amount of work it would take to recreate your plot into a sensational piece of work would be an unbearable misery you couldn’t possibly endure.
Fortunately for you, plot rejuvenation doesn’t have to be such a beast of a project.
What makes for epic plot twists? Shock and awe, baby, shock and awe…
Think of all of your favorite plot twists in books and movies alike and you’ll probably find these three things in common:
1. THEY EXPOSE
The best plot twists expose their readers (or viewers) to revelations behind motives, scenarios, circumstances, and/or emotions.
2. THEY SHOCK
The twist is both a revelation and a shock to the reader (or viewer) and often shakes up the storyline.
3. THEY'RE CLEVER
Their exposure works within the boundaries of the story to provide an unexpected result that the reader (or viewer) didn’t see coming.
Readers (especially of fiction) expect you to shockingly expose clever twists and turns throughout your novel to explain the storyline in a way that appears fantastical.
It wasn’t enough that the novel The Notebook was about a love story between two star-crossed lovers; the epic twist was that, at the end, we learn that the old woman being told the story is Allie and the old man telling it to her is Noah, both of the lovers in the story.
It wasn’t enough that two men were being held hostage in a basement against their will in the movie Saw; nope, the epic twist came when a man we all assumed was recently deceased, a man lying lifeless on the floor in the basement surrounded by a pool of blood, got up and walked away just after one of the two chained up men decided to cut his foot off to escape.
HOW TO CRAFT EPIC PLOT TWISTS THAT MAKE YOUR READERS GIDDY WITHOUT GETTING ALL PERFECTIONISTY WITH IT
I struggle with “not-enough” syndrome and I struggle with it hard.
There’s a part of me, no matter how much effort I’ve put into it, that will always believe I could’ve done something better. Which can be a real hangup when you’re trying to make a career out of creative writing and you just can’t stop reworking your stories.
One of the first lessons I had to learn while writing my first novel was how to incorporate plot twists that keep me (and inevitably any readers) interested in turning the page without keeping me up all night to create them.
Granted, I’m not the best at it yet, but each time I apply these rules, I find more exciting plot twists that I otherwise hadn’t worked out.
1. CREATE A LIST OF EXTREME BEST & WORST CASE SCENARIOS
Before drafting up anything serious, create a list of as many best and worst case scenarios that you can for your plot point. Keep each concept limited to one sentence that describes the scene or twist and work in a list format to create as many concepts as possible. I try to come up with at least 10-20 alternatives before choosing the twist I want to write.
2. TAKE A TIP FROM THE MASTERS
Next, read or watch your favorite plot twists from your favorite books or movies and take note of what was so unique about them. How can you mimic that intensity with your own plot? Are you still confident that the plot twist you chose from step one is worthy after digesting some work from the greats?
3. IF YOU'RE NOT SHOCKED, KEEP TRYING
Next, ask yourself this: does the plot twist shock me? If you’re settling for a plot point, it’ll be pretty obvious when you re-read it and find yourself not in the least bit shocked or enthused by the genius (or lack thereof) behind the twist. Epic plot twists are strokes of fate that fill the reader (or viewer) with an awe of intelligent creativity. If you choose to force fate, that awe-factor won’t be present.
4. UP THE ANTE FOR A PARTICULAR CHARACTER
Don’t forget to up the ante on your characters when in need of a good plot twist! Treat your main character to a dead family member, or give your favorite sub-character a leading role for a moment while they shake things up. Pick a character and give them a heavy reason to experience an unexpected emotion.
5. ONCE YOU'VE CHOSEN, ACCEPT YOUR CHOICE
Finally, remember to trust your instincts! Unless it’s absolutely necessary to help your plot make sense, you shouldn’t need to rework any twists you’ve created if you’ve followed these rules to epic plot twists. Everything should’ve been drafted up, worked to exhausting intensity, and turbocharged for maximum effect, so trust yourself and write on!
What simple rules for creating epic plot twists do you follow to a tee?
Before establishing this small list, I would write by the seat of my pants during my outlines to create what I thought were wildly intelligent plot twists. Then, I’d get to writing and find that my twists weren’t actually all that great.
This simple list of must-do’s has helped make my plot twists ten times more invigorating! What tricks do you have up your sleeves?