Sometimes when I am reading the slush pile (my submission inbox for Literary Wanderlust), I come across a really good story idea but the story winds up being boring. Usually, it’s because the story does not contain any plot twists to pique my interest.
What is a plot twist?
A plot twist is an unexpected, surprising development in the book that takes the story in a new direction. Note that the plot twist should always be narratively sound. In other words, there has to be some logic to the twist. The plot twist should always be a surprise to the reader. And it could also be foreshadowed, but not always. But, when the reader gets to the end, the plot twist must make sense to the overall journey that your character has been on.
Think about the movie The Empire Strikes Back. No one is really sure who Luke’s father is in Star Wars. Luke thinks his father id dead. But then—plot twist—Luke discovers that his arch nemesis, Darth Vader, is actually his father.
This plot twist is narratively sound because the father question was raised early on in Star Wars. The reader (movie goer) did not know that Darth Vader was Luke’s father and so was surprised to discover this new information even though this information was foreshadowed when Obi-Wan tells Luke that his father was “the best star pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior.” And Darth Vader pilots his own fighter which is a clue that he is a cunning warrior. This is a visual example of the plot twist. As an exercise, go back and watch the two movies and make a note of where ever you see the foreshadowing for this plot twist.
If you are going to consider adding a plot twist to your novel, set it up carefully. This is something that you may want to plot out in an outline so you know where to foreshadow it (if you are going to do that) and where the twist would be best placed in your novel to create the most conflict and cause the most chaos for your character. The main point of importance is that the plot twist should push your character in a new and unexpected direction from where the reader thinks the character is going.
You may want to consider using subtle misdirection as you set up your plot twist. Guide the reader’s attention away from the potential plot direction created by the plot twist. Planting false clues (red herrings) steers your readers in the wrong direction which will help make the plot twist more striking.
Perhaps your novel needs multiple plot twists. Outline them to ensure your story logic is sound but do be careful not to do so many plot twists that you risk confusing your reader.
Plot twists make your story more dynamic, and consequently more saleable. If you’ve never considered adding a plot twist or two to your story, give it a try. I could really make your story more interesting.