When we write a story, as the author, we are within the narrative – it’s characters, setting, backstory and genre format. We can become too close to the action and reveal our plot too early or make it too obvious. Here are a few tips to help entice your reader and keep them guessing, because if you can foresee a plot twist so can the reader. We have to think up options and/or steer the event in another direction to avoid being obvious.
One way is to use subtle misdirection, such as:
Red herrings – false clues or misleading information to steer readers in the wrong direction.
Dead ends – not writing the obvious outcome your readers thought was coming.
Misguided attention – Bury hints or clues where the reader is redirected to another scene, or dialogue and misses a cleverly dropped hint.
2. Foreshadowing is an excellent vehicle for adding subtle hints for a twist to come. These can be as part of a characters actions, or non-action, a secondary character’s dialogue or even disguising a plot twist within a plot twist. The twist, however, must be believable and necessary and also makes sense within the narrative.
3. Use a subplot that misdirects your reader.
It can feed into the plot line, or not – that is your choice.
Interact or intertwine your subplot in an unexpected or unusual way.
You can make the subplot more important to the overall story, than initially appears.
It can also distract from the main plot.
Depending on your genre you can use the ‘no-one is safe’ mentality to add tension and ‘what if’s’.
Other misdirection techniques include:
Killing off an important character.
A character discovers a plot twist organically.
Elevate a minor character.
Your big reveal instigates a twist ending.
Remember to keep up the momentum after the big reveal so that the reader will continue reading to find out the ultimate conclusion of your narrative. If you are struggling there are plot twist generators on the internet, you can use them or manufacture your own from the ideas.
How have you kept a reader guessing? Care to share?
Which book plot twist surprised you the most?
Here is a list of the more famous literary plot twists.
Although, this celebration was yesterday, any day is ‘read a book day’ – won’t you agree? I thought it would be fun to see what kind of reader you are. My reading habits are eclectic across many genres (I write that way too), so I think the closest is extrovert reader for me.
Please put your answer in the comments.
I have booked my ticket for a virtual interview hosted by Bloody Scotland – Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival of Stephen King, as you all know he is my ultimate writing hero. I am so excited for this event, not just because it’s Stephen but also because I am in the midst of writing a crime trilogy.
I am engaged in a six week writing course and thought, I could share my submissions with you. The first week is the sense of SIGHT. This was my story using the image.
The Jungle Wall
Lush greenery clings to a rocky reddish brown mock cliff face. A sheen of a waterfall cascades onto a flat hard surface, in a splashing burst. Sunlight shimmers in the veil of water, creating a band of rainbow colours. To the side are smooth, burnt sienna stones and pebbles, piled atop each other. Lighter green foliage creeps among them mimicking rivets of a stream. Large fern like leaves in glossy dark greens surround the liquid of the waterfall and quench their thirst. The throng of office workers pass by without a care or indeed interest. The mock jungle wall has become commonplace, a background feature. Too familiar to see anymore.
That is until, Sandy enters the building for an appointment. She initially enjoys the cool air so pleasant after the hot humid summer day outside. As she’d entered the building, she noticed the glass façade created stripes of light on the grey sidewalk, in stark contrast to her comfortable red soft leather shoes. She pulled at her indigo jeans, wishing she had taken time to hem them properly instead of folding the fabric at her ankles, where it now bunched and folded.
Sandy heard the water falling before seeing the green and brown jungle wall. A smile grew on her face at the joy and thrill that came over her as she looked at it. She was drawn to the lush greenery, the sparkling water and how the sunlight, funneled from an overhead skylight, danced on the surfaces. She walked to the edge of the installation and the noise of traffic, voices and footsteps fell away. It was as though she had traveled to an exotic location – a tropical forest. The falling water drew her eyes from top to bottom and around again – pulling her forward ever closer. Unconsciously, she leaned over the glass panels, reaching out to touch the delightfulness of the scene. She was within the installation in her mind’s eye – the russet browns and verdant greens grew in richness and intensity. She looked at every leaf, every rock and plant – committing to memory the sights.
Suddenly, her dream was broken, a hand gripping and pulling her backwards. Her purse tumbled from her shoulder to the ground, its contents spilling across the tiled floor. A woman’s voice muffled in Sandy’s ears, a stranger’s face full of concern.
“You nearly fell over, my dear. You need to take care. Here let me help you with your belongings.”
Sandy struggled from her daze and thanked the woman, as they gathered her possessions. With all the items gathered Sandy thank you woman and watched her walk away, unsure how she could have been so absorbed in the jungle of her imagination. Glancing at her watch she gasped to see she was almost late for her appointment. Without another look, she hurried away.
In the depths of the rock wall, eyes shone out. The treasure was just inside the glass panels. As the building emptied later on that evening, a small creature crept to retrieve the pink and black vial. It put it with all the other treasures and grinned. Another susceptible human drawn in.
Let me know what you think of this story.
I have once again entered the Goodreads Reading Challenge – I am committing to read a minimum of 15 books in 2021. I hope I can make this goal, as I missed my goal by two books last year, mainly because I was busy completing my steampunk novel, The Commodore’s Gift and promoting it once it was published and participating in NaNoWriMo. This year I will edit and revise my manuscript for the first book in my crime/detective trilogy, so decreased my reading goal slightly. Have you signed up?
My current read is If It Bleeds by Stephen King. It will not take much longer!
What are you reading? What was your favorite book of 2020?
Once we leave the education system, our reading choices change. Free from scheduled literature, some we had no interest in reading in the first place, our choices expand. Depending on our own particular favored genre, we pick books for a variety of reasons. However, have you read any of the classics?
The following list is for the 20th century, but of course there are many other books that have been hailed as excellent over the decades.
What is your motivation for writing? There are as many reasons to write as there are genres. We may want to persuade, catalog or inform on ‘real’ events or topics but many of us (fiction authors) want to entertain. It is an author’s purpose, to bring to life a concept.
So let’s look at each scenario for motivation:
a) Money – we would all love to be a best seller and have fame and fortune like the ‘big’ names, such as Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and the like. However, we need to be realistic – firstly can we manage to get a publishing contract with a big publishing house? How many years are you willing to wait for that? If you use the self-publishing route how much of your time (unpaid) can you sacrifice for promotion? Should you give your work away? Is the income enough to live on? Could your writing supplement your lifestyle?
If you determine that the net income (we all need to report it in tax season!) is a nice bonus for a treat here and there, rather than your sole income – it will take the stress out of the equation.
b) Success – once again we should temper our expectations. Global sales are a dream we want to make real but maybe measure our success on more of a local level. Do you have your books in local bookstores, the library, offered at local events? The more you attend and promote within your own locality the more your ‘success’ becomes tangible. Articles in the local newspaper could have people approach or question you in regard to your being an author. Social media allows us to expand our locality, of course, but starting small will give you a firm basis from which to start. Never under estimate the power of word of mouth for promotion.
c) Satisfaction – Although this is third on the list, I feel it is the most important of all, as having your words, ideas and stories readily available for people to read now and for future generations, is the penultimate success. Our narratives will be enjoyed and relayed long after we are gone. It is our legacy.
Obviously, in an ideal world, a mixture of all three of the above would be the perfect scenario.
What is your motivation?
What do you consider the most satisfying part of being a writer/author?