Discussions & Rambles // What makes a great plot twist?

Hi hello, I’m back! I’m sorry it’s been a while but I promise I’ll be back on regular schedule soon. Whatever that is. Thanks for reading this post! (Sorry in advance for the long post! It took me like 2 weeks to put together!)


A lot of books have “plot twists”, but sometimes… they just don’t work out.

Across all of my years of reading, I’ve found that I love books with plot twists. In fact, if a book doesn’t have a plot twist of some kind, I probably won’t like it that much.

If you’ve read some of my latest reviews, you may have noticed that I tend to give books “extra points” for having a plot twist which I didn’t see coming. Plot twists are common in books these days, but not all plot twists are executed well.

But what exactly is a plot twist? And why do we care about them so much?

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If you enjoy fictional entertainment (books, TV shows, movies of any genre…) chances are you’ve seen at least one plot twist. These plot devices are used to catch the viewer or reader by surprise, and a lot of the time, they work pretty well! I don’t know about you, but I love a good plot twist.

But notice that I said the plot twist has to be good in order for me to love it. I believe there are certain qualities of a good (or great!) plot twist, and I’m here to discuss those with you today!

BAD PLOT TWISTS:

I’m not going to give any examples of real bad plot twists, because… well, we all have our own opinions. What I think is a terrible plot twist might not be the same for you. I also want to avoid any spoilers, especially if I tell you bad spoilers!

So instead, here’s an explanation of what I think a bad plot twist is made of.

Bad plot twists…

  • are not surprising.

You know what I mean. We’ve probably all been there.

For example, if the beginning of the story implies that “Sarah had been hearing strange noises in the middle of the night. What could they be?, and then the ‘big twist’ is that *gasp* those noises were ghosts all along? I’m sorry, that’s not really a plot twist!

Ghosts was the first reason that popped into my head. Not really surprising. Back to the drawing board. Be a bit more creative next time.

(Not to be confused with the general idea of using ghosts. Ghosts are fine! Just don’t let them be predictable.)

  • are given away too soon.

For example, let’s say we have a book in front of us, and that book is 15 chapters long. If Chapter 10 brings in a new mysteriously cloaked character, but Chapter 11 reveals that character to be the professor from Chapter 1, that’s not a plot twist. It’s just a reveal.

If you don’t have time to process the facts and clues which lead up to the reveal, then the plot twist is given away too soon, before anything can really sink in.

  • are random and/or appear out of nowhere.

Sometimes, when I’m reading a book and it’s almost at the end, something completely random will happen. Random, as in, one of the characters of a 1920’s mystery novel will jump out an say something like, “Well, Jimmy’s actually been a pirate this whole time! Dun dun DUN!” 

(I’m just kidding, 1920’s mysteries would not do you wrong like that. But you know what I mean.)

And then I say, “Okay… but why? What does that have to do with the mystery we’ve been trying to solve? Is that what you call a plot twist??” But then the characters won’t answer anything, either because they can’t hear me or because they think that was a pretty clever twist.

That, my friends, is not a good plot twist. Does it matter if Jimmy was a pirate the whole time? No, it may be a reveal, but it’s also just weird. Maybe I had never suspected that Jimmy was a pirate at all, but if it doesn’t relate to the point of the story, then it does not need to be anywhere near the climax in the place of a plot twist.
(I mean, go ahead and make Jimmy a pirate if you’re going for Comedy! Otherwise… don’t do it, y’all.)

  • are predictable from the moment they were implanted in the story.

This one is, perhaps, the most common ingredient for a bad twist.

If the beginning of a book states “Miranda’s father went missing last month, and he’s been trying to get back to her ever since”, and towards the end of the book Miranda starts getting mysterious phone calls… guess what? It’s probably Miranda’s father. No surprises there, unless you’re really bad at predicting plot twists. (Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice.)

So that’s not a good plot twist. Not if you can see it coming from a while away. 

What would be a good twist, in this case, would be if Miranda thought the calls were coming from her father, but they were actually coming from her childhood best friend who thinks he can help solve the
(Or something like that. Just anything would make it better, honestly.)

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GOOD PLOT TWISTS:

Again, I can’t give you any real examples for this! You wouldn’t want spoilers, would you?

Instead, if you are trying to figure out what a good plot twist looks like, these are some things which might indicate “good twist” for you.

Good plot twists…

  • are not predictable.

This one is self-explanatory. This should be the number one rule of plot twists. 

Whenever I review a book, I always try to point out if it had good plot twist or not. I love plot twists, and I like being surprised when they are served to me.

However, plot twists just can’t be predictable! They just can’t! That’s not how plot twists work!

Plot twists, in general, are all about making the reader believe one thing could happen, but then something else happens instead. That ~something else~ needs to fit into the story nicely, and make the reader want to know more.

Otherwise, there’s really no reason to add a plot twist in the first place.

  • bring something new or more intense into the story.

Like I’ve said before, good plot twists should change the story for the better.

After the plot twist happens, you should feel surprised and wanting more! However, not all plot twists are the resolution. Sometimes plot twists raise the stakes of the story, and cause you to root for the main character even more.

In addition to letting you be surprised, this kind of plot twist should help you feel a sense of urgency, excitement, or worry.

Okay, I’m sorry, I have to include a real twist example for this! Spoilers for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in case you’ve never read the series or watched the movies for some reason.

Click to reveal the spoilers!

 

Throughout the beginning of the book, Harry’s friends and mentors warn him to stay away from Sirius Black, the murderer and escaped prisoner. This confuses Harry, because he could never imagine chasing after a murderer (other than Voldemort, of course).

But later, Harry accidentally discovers that Sirius Black is his Godfather, and is probably the reason why his parents were murdered.

This is a plot twist because Harry then feels compelled to figure out why Sirius Black would betray his parents like that, and the fact that Sirius is his Godfather changes his point of view on Sirius’ escape. Now, Harry almost wants revenge. 🙂

  • don’t have to be at the end of the book.

If you read the Harry Potter plot twist from above, I’d also like to point out that this particular plot twist took place about half-way through the book, maybe even sooner.

Sometimes plot twists can be revealed earlier on, in order for you to be more excited (or terrified) of what comes next.

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GREAT PLOT TWISTS:

“Great” Plot Twists are basically like “Good” Plot Twists, except they actually knock your socks right off.

Here are some twist traits which might make you say, “Ah yes, now that’s a plot twist!”

Great plot twists…

  • bring the story together in a way you should have seen before, but you didn’t.

Plot twists can blow us away because they make sense. Amazing plot twists will bring back bits on information from throughout the story, and put all of those bits together to explain something you never saw coming. But it all makes sense, now! 

  • are the product of intricately placed scenes or facts from throughout the story (aka foreshadowing).

Great plot twists leave “clues” prior to the revealing the twist, but these are the kinds of clues which you were previously unable to put together until the twist reveal.

  • make you think deeply about the story even after finishing it.

Every time I come across a great plot twist (lately I’ve been thinking about the Illuminae series), it makes be sit back and rethink everything I just witnessed.

Great plot twists are like that.

If a plot twist doesn’t completely knock me out of my seat, then what am I even doing with my life? I live for surprises beyond my imagination!

If a book doesn’t make me question my entire existence over the past few hours, then maybe it’s not even the best book. The plot twist could have been better.

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What do you think a great plot twist is made of?
Do you agree with my points?
Which books have your favorite plot twists? (No spoilers, though!)
✨ I want to hear all of your thoughts! ✨


You can also be my friend on Goodreads! 📚

Happy reading, everyone! 😀Starry Sky Books-13

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37 thoughts on “Discussions & Rambles // What makes a great plot twist?

  1. I agree there’s this fine line where the twist has to be believable (not sudden and out of nowhere, like the nice guy best friend who has been super nice the whole book is suddenly a serial killer! for no reason!), but it also can’t be signaled so much that it’s not a surprise.

    Also, twists work much better for me if I don’t know there’s a twist (like if I haven’t read reviews that mention a giant twist). If I’m expecting one, I keep trying to figure out what it is, and it’s often much easier to do when you know there *is* one.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s also just easier to predict when you know there is one because you’re just sitting there thinking, “What would be the MOST surprising thing to happen?” Like, if the character is fixated on her mother’s death the whole novel you just know the “twist” is that she’s not dead at all. Book ruined.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an interesting post! I’m a dummy who never sees plot twists coming, but even I can tell a good one from a bad one, even though it’s sometimes hard to put my finger on why. But you’re so right that some of the worst plot twists come out of absolutely nowhere and are supposed to be SHOCKING and MINDBLOWING even though there was absolutely no buildup.
    But then there are those incredible plot twists that make you reevaluate everything you’ve read up to that point and possibly your entire existence! They’re just *kisses fingers* so good.
    I think plot twists are tricky because they can be so subjective. Sometimes what I think is a great plot twist might be considered bad by someone else. But I agree with you that when a plot twist is really subtly foreshadowed and brings the story together in a new way, it’s amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Margaret! Good twists absolutely need buildup and suspense in order to work. But is it still all a matter of our opinions! I guess I’m really critical when it comes to twists, mostly because I see them coming most of the time. But when a twist works, it really can be amazing.

      Like

  3. Absolutely love this post! Hahahahaha lmao ‘its probably Miranda’s father’ made me laugh so much, and I completely agree with this post 😍😍 A plot twist is perfect when you don’t see it coming even tho it had its seeds throughout the whole time, and it really brings the story and/or characters together. Amazing discussion post – I love it!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great post and really got me thinking about what would make a good plot twist!! I do like being surprised enough to make me pause and that ‘well damn I didn’t expect that’. But on occasion I do like to have guessed a plot twist but when I feel I how worked to figure it out because I like being right haha but not when it is obvious!! I just read a book where I could see the 3 major plot twists coming from the beginning of the book and I wasn’t impressed!!
    This has also helped me when thinking about writing plot twists in my story so thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That was really interesting to read.

    *immediatly start to side eye her project*
    I always think of plot twist and what could actually define it in my work. I’m not 100% that I’m totally aware of when I’m writing one. I usually tend to be very wrapped up with that is happening at the moment and thing just reveal accordingly to the plot. It’s just thanks to the impression from my beta reader that I started to understand what they found surprising or not.

    I definitely need to work more on paying attention to eventual twist in my work

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be a bit tricky to write your own plot twist, because YOU already know what’s going to happen, but you’re trying to hide that from the reader. I definitely don’t think about it enough in my own writing either, it it helps to understand the twist from both sides of the story!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve read way too many bad plot twists. I like to read thrillers and there are some completely awful twists that surprised me but in a very bad way. I think there’s an art to a good plot twist 😆

    Liked by 1 person

  7. In mystery/thriller books, I usually spot the twist coming a mile away. (and friends who don’t read as much as like O: wow never saw this coming!) How much is from having an enriched reading background, I don’t know, but there is something to say about authors who bring in the twists that aren’t anticipated, that tie in specifically with their characters/novel, and leave you quaking.

    Great post Xandra, I agree with so many of your points!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. great post!! i absolutely agree with the “revealing a plot twist that isn’t really a twist it’s just Weird” because I feel like we see that waaaaay too often. personally, i love a twist in the form of “the characters are so close to happiness or resolution and you can taste it BUT THEN—“

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My favourite plot twists are those where you actually know how it’s going to be resolved. It’s quite predictable and you’re just waiting for the “moment” of the reveal so you the story can move on. BUT THEN.. it’s a DOUBLE twist. And either it’s not what you thought it was the whole time, or it was, but there’s another twist/reveal at the same time. Those ones actually make my jaw drop – I loveeee a good plot twist.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love a book with great plot twists. I think Gillian Flynn does a fantastic work with that. And a scene that was implanted only for a twist and we can see that coming a miles away is called ‘Deus ex Machina’, TIL!

    Like

  11. I related to every aspect of this post! Plot twists gone wrong are my biggest peeve. I once read a book that was amazing and I was loving it, until there was a twist that was strange and unnecessary that also ended up changing the genre of the book. It could have been done well, but there was no foreshadowing, so I just ended up annoyed.

    On the other hand, I feel like Maggie Stiefvater does plot twists and reveals really well! She foreshadows almost everything, which makes rereads fun, and the twists always make sense!

    Like

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