Didn’t See THAT Coming…

Twist_Ending_7181When I first started writing, I decided early on that I’d build my career on twist endings. Perhaps I was inspired by The Sixth Sense, or any other number of other M. Night Shamalan films. And really, who could blame me? It was a fantastic film.

I tried my hand at the inevitable twist ending, and, of course, it was a complete failure. Why? I fell into the trap many writers do: in order to surprise the reader, I withheld valuable information that the reader should have had earlier on. As a matter of fact, in some cases, I deliberately misled the reader. There was a certain lack of foreshadowing, something I thought was excusable until I learned better. As an editor, I learned that anyone can do a twist ending, but only few could do it well. In fact, I’ve turned down nearly every “twist ending” story I’ve read: that is to say, the story that exists to serve the twist.

Here’s the thing, if you write a story just to make the twist, then your story will be a failure. If the “twist” comes as the natural, inevitable outcome of the action of the story, then it’s probably okay. Consider A Good Man is Hard to Find. Flannery O’Connor’s short story has an ending that feels like a twist, but in fact, isn’t. When you consider the story, there is only one possible outcome from the get-go. We hope the ending will be different, but it’s a false hope. Those types of endings, the unexpected but inevitable ending, as Flannery O’Connor says here, are the ones that remain in my mind, that sit in my heart and announce with authority that I am in the hands of a master storyteller.

This can be accomplished, generally speaking, by using the proper amount of foreshadowing, early and often. You also want to be true to your characters. Create real, tangible characters, and allow them to make the decisions that they would make in real life. Don’t force them into strange, incongrous decisions simply to “trick” the reader.

If there’s one thing reader’s don’t like, it’s being tricked. Gimmick writing is never “genius” writing.

13 thoughts on “Didn’t See THAT Coming…”

  • Sometimes twist endings that weren’t planned suck. I just finished Chimera by Rob Thurman and her twist ending made the whole basis of the story a lie. You could tell by the abruptness of the ending she didn’t plan it though.

  • I completely agree with this. It really bugs me when I can tell the author wrote the story just for the twist that they devised “oh so cleverly”. Twists should come in naturally.

  • Writing a natural twist isn’t an easy thing to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you think you’ve got a brilliant idea for a twist, then make sure it flows with the rest of what you’ve written. If you’re dead set on making that twist happen, you might need to revise the whole draft.
    That’s risky. There’s a chance that you will fall into the trap of making the point of the piece to deliver the twist. Of course, no one’s saying you need that twist. It could be rewritten into something completely different. Maybe it’s just a turning point in an even longer tale. Or maybe a twist is necessary, but it’s not the twist you planned on.
    Ultimately, let your story and characters grow. If the twist works, then that’s awesome. If not, well, that’s awesome too. Perhaps your brilliant plan can still be put to use in another story.
    Write well, write often.

  • The twist ending should be apparent from the beginning, yet evasive enough that people don’t expect it. While Many people work their way into a twist ending, some don’t plan it out well enough and either, as you said, make their whole story work up to the twist, or they could just throw the ending in their and undermind the entire story.

  • i like the idea of a twisted ending maby if i ever write a book i will add some awsome twist that will just blow peaples minds

  • When I write a story I never have a twist ending because I don’t know how to write them or I don’t want to use them. If I use the twist ending it might make my story worse or it will make it better.

  • Adding a twist to the end of a story seems quite interesting, and difficult. As long as the twist flows and makes sense then it should make a story very creative. Maybe ill try to put a twistful ending on the story i am currently writing. I dont want my twist to change eerything thst the story is currently about, but instead make it like a secret tat the main character, or one of the other main characters, has been hiding from everyone. but still plays into the story naturally. Thank You!<3

  • Some twist endings absolutely suck, some are amazing and others are just ehhhh. Personally, i endjoy twist endings that leave it a bit unresolved because it makes me think. I also believe that if there is a twist ending you should be able to look back and think oh yah that makes alot of sense i get it now.

  • Some twist endings that I’ve read were really great, others…. could’ve been a LOT better than what they were. You can just tell that the author didn’t put enough thought into it, and it can end up ruining the entire story..

  • I absoultly love twist endings but, to have a success twist ending it has to be ery creative and orginal because if it has already been done it isnt much of a twist, and not ery exciting.

  • I always enjoy twist endings because I can’t help from yelling, “What just happened?!” And getting all worked up about how a good story ended. In some ways though, I think it’s interesting as a reader to be mislead, like in mystery stories for instance. I like it when I go through the whole story thinking I’m clever and have figured out the end only to reach the end and have all my suspicions left hanging with an ending that leaves me thinking, “How did I miss this?” It is true though, that the misleading story has to have some sort of simple foreshadowing to the possible outcome that a reader wouldn’t expect. That way the twist ending isn’t pulled out of thin air.

  • I have a few twist endings in mind for a youtube series im cowriting and watching movies like sherlock holmes: a game of shadows and reading this has helped me. movies are a huge part of my life and at the heart of every movie there is a script written. But with sherlock holmes 2 as an example of a twist ending i had really thought something had happend and then when they revealed the twist. I had no idea it was comeing.

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