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.
As writers and authors, learning new skills, keeping ahead of genre evolution, trope changes and writing methods is vital for our continued improvement as a wordsmith. With the industry changing so quickly, we need to be ahead of the game.
The best ways to do this are:
Join a writing group
Read articles on the book industry
Take courses and workshops
Attend writing conferences
Subscribe to industry newsletters
How do you keep current with the writing industry?
This past weekend, I virtually attended When Words Collide and attended as many sessions as I could, while also being a co-presenter and panelist. Although, there was information I already knew, there were also those little nuggets of wisdom, insights and knowledge that made each session a gem. My notes were prolific and my follow up to action each gem will take several weeks.
There is always something to learn, whether you are just starting out on your writing career or have years of experience. We can have tunnel vision and ease into a ‘comfort zone’ so easily, when there are so many other calls on our time.
Some things can be scheduled monthly, such as updating your website or blog with current information. We don’t want a visitor to read upcoming events from 2018! Modify your bio to include your latest book, current WIP progression and appearances etc. Don’t leave your blog stagnant – post content regularly. (This can be once weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even quarterly – just a known routine, so followers will know when to expect you to post).
We all have several social media accounts, so make sure they reflect the latest news, images etc. so they are in line with your current activities. This makes your author platform current. Also check links to ensure they are working properly or direct to a new site, if a change occurred. Refresh content and images so your platform doesn’t look dated or tired. Renew your copyright dates for all content across platforms on 1st January each year – this is one that can be missed very easily.
Can you share tips on what you do to stay updated and improve your writing skills?
With a complete read through this weekend of the manuscript for the first book in my detective series, An Elusive Trail, I am fairly happy with the edits and revisions. The new word count is 61,626 – a far cry from the ‘finished’ story of National Novel Writing Month in November last year of 50,156. This shows how a manuscript changes and grows over the course of revisions. Scenes are added or cut, moved or changed and information researched in order to improve the content. Not only for accuracy but also to ensure the characters and story reflect the trope expected by readers of the specific genre.
I recently attended a crime writer’s week long presentation course online. The most interesting and helpful sessions were with a retired detective. His insight and knowledge gave me several pieces of information I have included in the manuscript to enhance the police and forensic procedures. There are a couple more months of revisions to be done, (an author has a hard time relinquishing a manuscript!) but the first book in the series is well on its way to being ready to submit to a publisher for review.
Writers and authors research their specific genre through books but also movies. My choice of movies to watch has been said to be eclectic. I can watch and enjoy action, romance, sci-fi, fantasy and many others, it all depends on my mood at the time. Take several I watched during April for example:
The Father – Anthony Hopkins was spectacular. Hillbilly Elegy – Glenn Close was exceptional. Penguin Bloom – as a natural lover this true story was heartwarming and wonderful in so many ways. Diana – I always feel my heart break a little reading or watching anything to do with her. The Age of Adaline – I have watched this movie several times because I love the premise of it. Elizabeth and Margaret – because we can only glimpse their lives. Coroner – this series was for my book research mainly. Monty Python -In the Beginning – I grew up with Python and still recite sketches to this day. Ladies in Black – life in 1959 Australia a merging of cultures within the structure of society expectations. It shows how a person’s life is affected by the era’s limitations put upon them. Elvis Presley – The Searcher – I learned more about his life, but also that if he had broken away from the Colonel, his fame would have been even greater, such a shame he was so manipulated. As you can see some are factual, some research, while others are pure escapism.
The most unusual and surprising movie I watched was FAMILY, at first look it is a workaholic woman asked to look after her brother’s daughter for a short time. However, what is so unexpected is the unknown (to me anyway) cultural phenomenon of Juggalo. I have never come across this group (and I listen to an even more of an eclectic selection in music). The Juggalo’s are fans of the group Insane Clown Posse. They dress in clown-like makeup and fantastical outfits. Their motto is ‘I shall not judge. I shall love my Family. I am a Ninja.‘ You may not enjoy their music but their inclusiveness to all is inspiring.
Have you discovered something new through a book or movie?What was it?