Unexpected plot twists are creative devices that are often used in works of fiction including novels, movies, and TV series. They help add intrigue and shock to a plot and are basically used by writers to raise the tension in their stories.
Without a plot twist, a movie or a novel will be pretty much boring since its end will be foreseen by most of the audience.
Today’s audience goes into a movie or a novel in anticipation of a plot twist; hence, if a plot twist used by a writer in a work of fiction is predictable, it will fail to captivate the audience who will be left disappointed with the story’s outcome.
Creating a good plot twist is vital for various reasons. Apart from the fact that it helps to consolidate on the tension built up in a story, it also plays a key role in resolving the conflict in the story.
There are some tips that can be adopted when creating unexpected plot twists for movies, TV series, and works of literature. These 7 basic tips are certain to help a writer properly execute an unexpected plot twist when working on a story.
Become the audience
This is essential to the successful execution of a plot twist. It may sound like an obvious piece of advice, but the benefits of engaging in this practice are immeasurable. When a writer examines his or her story from the viewpoint of the audience, it becomes easier to put aside creative bias and focus on the story’s entertainment value.
This approach can also be used for creating unexpected plot twists. When plotting a story, it is wise to look at the story through the lens of the reader or audience. This helps the writer to know what the audience expects from the story, and having this knowledge makes it easy for the writer to add a twist to the story.
The movie audience and readers of fictional works are able to detect poorly written plot twists miles away. So if a writer assesses his or her story and easily senses the emergence of the plot twist, there is good chance the audience will also be able to figure it out without any sweat.
List every possible resolution to the story’s main conflict
The plot of a story is often centered on a particular conflict that ends up being resolved in the end. The resolution, which often takes place in the third act, is the pivotal moment of the story that usually carries the plot twist.
One way a writer can properly execute a plot twist is to list every possible scenario that will lead to the resolution of the story’s conflict. This list should include the most obvious resolution to the story as well as the most bizarre scenario. Doing this allows the writer to incorporate a twist that stuns the audience but still makes the resolution believable.
Allow the plot to misdirect the audience
This is a quite common technique where the writer uses a little bit of misdirection to sheath the underlying plot from the audience, only to let it out in a shocking reveal. Most times when this method is applied, the plot twist turns out to be status quo of the story that is been masked by the preceding plot.
The plot mechanism of misdirection can be quite successful when executed well as seen in the movie, A Beautiful Mind, where the twist reveals that Russell Crowe’s character was actually suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and wasn’t really experiencing the events in the movie.
On the downside, The Village by M Night Shyamalan, has one of the poorest executions of plot twists due to the fact that it went overboard with the misdirection.
Proper foreshadowing is important
Unexpected plot twists are like unscheduled bus stops, they can be quite unsettling. It is, thus, important for a writer to hint at the existence of the twist before it plays out in the story. Doing this doesn’t really eliminate the shock that accompanies the execution of the twist; it does, however, help to make the twist more believable.
Foreshadowing is a common plot device that basically sets the foundation to a plot twist. It ensures that the audience, while stunned at the unraveled twist, isn’t confused. A writer must not be obvious when foreshadowing a plot twist; in fact, a plot twist can be said to be properly foreshadowed if the audience only alludes to hint’s existence after the twist has been executed.
Let the plot twist be naturally created
The proper way to execute a plot twist is to involve story elements that are crucial to the movement of the plot. This means that the characters, settings, and the created conflicts should play a pivotal role in resolving the story.
When a writer fails to do this and chooses to bring in external factors, the resolution can no longer be called a plot twist; rather, it is referred to as a deus ex machina. This is a common trope in fictional works that is used to resolve the conflict of a poorly written story.
Emphasize on believability
The most important goal of a writer when creating the plot twist is to sell it to the audience. This will almost be impossible to achieve if the twist isn’t believable. Regardless of what the center plot of the story entails, the final act that resolves the main conflict must be within the realm of possibility. If this isn’t the case, the twist will lack substance and the whole story will crumble.
Use subplots to create plot twists
This is also a very common practice in creative writing. It is used when the writer is unable to create a twist in the main plot of the story. A subplot can indeed be used to both foreshadow and set up the plot twist. It is not only a valuable plot device that improves an entire story, it can also be used to incorporate a twist that changes the direction of the main plot.
Conclusion – what’s the fuss about unexpected plot twists?
Even though plot twists are often the smallest aspects of stories, they play very crucial roles implementing story resolutions. A good plot twist can save a very poorly written story, and a badly written plot twist can make a good story forgettable.