THE ART OF THE PLOT TWIST

I spent a good hour yesterday struggling to figure out how to attach my new bike rack to my car (while the directions kept blowing away), how to get my oddly shaped new bike onto the rack, and then how to get said bike off the rack without breaking one of the cradles. Not a nice April Fool's joke, universe! 😝 *adds an adapter bar to next shopping list*


Speaking of April Fool's jokes, I've seen several of my Facebook friends post things like this over the last several days: 


I agree. Not. Funny.  But it made me think of some classic April Fool's pranks that my siblings and I have played--and what they can teach us about the art of the plot twist. See, these pranks typically involved manipulating an object so that it did something unexpected, even the opposite of what you'd expect:


  • Putting paper in the toes of someone's shoes so when the person tries to put on the shoes, their feet won't go all the way in

  • Short-sheeting someone's bed (same principle)

  • Unlacing someone's shoes and relacing them from top to bottom

  • Putting a rubber band around a sink sprayer so the next person who turns on the water gets an unexpected shower

  • Turning everything in a pantry upside down (Note: Do NOT do this with a container of rice. I pulled this prank once before leaving for school and got quite a lecture when I got home because the container had popped open while I was gone.)

  • Switching bags of cereal inside their boxes

  • Putting plastic wrap under the cap of a shampoo bottle so nothing comes out when the person squeezes it

  • Taping a string to a dollar bill and yanking it out of reach when someone tries to pick it up


Writing a plot twist works in a similar way. Readers have heard, read, and watched enough stories to have certain expectations of how particular types of stories will progress:


  • Boy meets girl, they look like they're going to get together, something threatens to tear them apart, and they end up together anyway.

  • The villain captures the hero, reveals the details of the evil plan, and leaves the hero to die.

  • Explorers enter an ancient tomb, find out there's a curse, blow it off, get cursed, and break the curse.


You know the drill.  So, like inventing an April Fool's prank, you create a plot twist by doing either (a) the opposite of what readers expect or (b) a slightly different version of what readers expect (more subtle):


  • (a) Your hero and heroine don't end up together, or (b) their relationship undergoes so much strain that by the end of the story, it's uncertain where they'll go from here. 

  • (a) The villain outright states that it'd be dumb to reveal their plans and simply leaves the hero to die, or (b) the hero is left stuck and helpless through their own poor choices rather than through anything the villain does, but the villain is happy to take advantage of it.

  • (a) There's no curse, but the explorers incur the wrath of local authorities by taking artifacts from the tomb without permission, or (b) there's no way to break the curse, so the explorers have to figure out how to live with it.


Those are just a few ideas. What's the best plot twist you've ever read?


Write on,

Candice


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