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?
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.)
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.
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.
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! 😀
40 thoughts on “Discussions & Rambles // What makes a great plot twist?”
Such a great post! I really get what you mean about plot twists that are predictable not being great and if they’re given away too soon they feel more like a reveal. And I really dislike when a plot twist comes out of nowhere! I love when plot twists make me see things or think about a book long after I finish though! Brilliant post!