- Plot twist (n.) - A plot twist is a radical change in the expected direction or outcome of the plot of a novel, film, television series, comic, video game, or other work of narrative. It is a common practice in narration used to keep the interest of an audience, usually surprising them with a revelation. Some "twists" are foreshadowed.
Some of you may ask some questions that some might answer and some might ignore. How can you write a good creepypasta? What the is the most efficient way to keep your readers interested? What can I use to make my story unique and distinct to other stories? Well, this is one of the many known answers:
What Are Plot Twists?
Plot twists, as defined above, are unexpected changes in a story's plotline. A plot twist is usually shocking and surprising, as they are usually not expected by the readers to come (although foreshadowing might come to play in different cases). They might also keep the audiences entertained, and persuade them into reading your content to know what twist lies ahead. In the world of creepypastas, they are the perfect weapon to impress and, if wisely used, scare the shit out the readers.
What Are the Types of Plot Twists?
Based on a research I did, there are 11 types, are shall I say, mechanics in formulating a plot twist: Anagnorisis, Flashback, Unreliable narrator, Peripeteia, Deus ex machinima, Poetic justice, Chekhov's gun, Red herring, In medias res, Non-linear narrative, and Reverse chronology.
This method is mostly used in mystery and horror genres. Anagnorisis is a twist that reveals a person's identity that was initially hidden from the reader. They are usually added at the end. One example of this is an Athenian tragedy titled Oedipus Rex (Oedipus the King in English), where Oedipus kills his own father and thereafter marries a woman older than him. He won't know the horrible truth until the climax—the woman he married actually his father's wife, which makes her her own mother, and his mother isn't aware that the man she married was her own son.
This also applies to the narrator itself when writing a story. One example is this: The story starts with the protagonist telling his best-friend that he missed his father, when he died because of an incurable disease, then the climax reveals he lied to his own best-friend—the protagonist actually killed his own father then hid his body somewhere.
This is self-explanatory, but I will define this as accurate as possible.
Flashbacks are vivid reversions the protagonist will have at the climax or at any point in the story. This kind of plot twist reveals details the protagonist didn't understand/have at the beginning. This can also be merged with anagnorisis, as they are used to reveal a past character's true identity the protagonist believed haven't had knowledge of, or the protagonist is one of the antagonist's victims.
This is the least used kind of plot twist. In this one, the narrator manipulates, fabricates or falsifies the story's plotline, persuading the readers to keep up with the story to know what the narrator has changed. The unreliable narrator twists usually set off at the end of a story. After reading this part, the readers commonly question their personal beliefs about the previous narration, thus "blowing their minds".
- Flashback, or analepsis, is a sudden, vivid reversion to a past event it is used to surprise the reader with previously unknown information that provides the answer to a mystery, places a character in a different light, or reveals the reason for a previously inexplicable action. The Alfred Hitchcock film Marnie employed this type of surprise ending. Sometimes this is combined with the above category, as the flashback may reveal the true identity of one of the characters, or that the protagonist is related to one of the villain's past victims, as Sergio Leone did with Charles Bronson's character in "Once Upon a Time in the West" or Frederick Forsyth's "The Odessa File".
This is a sudden reversal of the protagonist's fortune that shows up naturally and unintentionally from different circumstances. This is one of the most obscure methods of formulating a plot twist, but is highly-advisable to horror writers generally, specifically to everyone who writes about mental illnesses.
The good type of reversal is what the protagonist believes to be true, but is actually false after a certain event happens. Refer to this example: The protagonist attempts to commit suicide after believing he killed his own mother, then the truth was revealed when his father saved him from doing such thing. His father said to him that his son didn't kill his mother, but instead, his father killed his wife.
The bad type is just the vice-versa of good type. This is what the protagonist believes to be false, but is true after a certain event. It is at its most effective when used to a story about a mysterious creature whose existence is uncertain or about a urban legend everyone didn't/did believe to (also applies to Slenderman). Refer to this example: The protagonist listen to a campfire story about a mythical creature that roams the woods at night. When everyone was asleep, the protagonist goes to the woods, just to find the creature following him from behind. (This is not used, but just don't use it; just don't, please.)
- Peripeteia is a sudden reversal of the protagonist's fortune, whether for good or ill, that emerges naturally from the character's circumstances. Unlike the deus ex machina device, peripeteia must be logical within the frame of the story. An example of a reversal for ill would be Agamemnon's sudden murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra in Aeschylus' The Oresteia or the inescapable situation Kate Hudson's character finds herself in at the end of The Skeleton Key. This type of ending was a common twist ending utilised by The Twilight Zone, most effectively in the episode "Time Enough at Last" where Burgess Meredith's character is robbed of all his hope by a simple but devastating accident with his glasses. A positive reversal of fortune would be Nicholas Van Orton's suicide attempt after mistakenly believing himself to have accidentally killed his brother, only to land safely in the midst of his own birthday party, in the film The Game. The Filipino horror film Mag-ingat Ka Sa... Kulam depicts the sudden changes in the behavior of the protagonist Maria."
Deus ex machinima
There's no very accurate definition for this, but I'll try my best to give some meaning to this one.
Deus ex machina is a plot twist that just came out of nowhere, usually not in context or relation with the story whatsoever.
- Deus ex machina is a Latin term meaning "god out of the machine." It refers to an unexpected, artificial or improbable character, device or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction to resolve a situation or untangle a plot.In Ancient Greek theater, the "deus ex machina" ('ἀπὸ μηχανῆς θεός') was the character of a Greek god literally brought onto the stage via a crane (μηχανῆς—mechanes), after which a seemingly insoluble problem is brought to a satisfactory resolution by the god's will. In its modern, figurative sense, the "deus ex machina" brings about an ending to a narrative through unexpected (generally happy) resolution to what appears to be a problem that cannot be overcome (see Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I). This device is often used to end a bleak story on a more positive note.
This is an ironic, often unintentional, twist that occurs at the end or near-end of the story. This is not usually used in horror, but is also advisable. Twists like this is the easiest to formulate, as they affect the antagonist and not the protagonist. There are two known words related to this—revenge and karma.
In this one, every deed (certainly evil) the antagonist has committed to the protagonist of the story will backfire at him in the same fashion. A device like this, commonly used in modern literature, is a twist in the villain's faith, where he/she gets caught in his/her own trap. Refer to this example: The story starts with a mother abusing her child. It gets to the point the child already got too much, then decides to kill his own mother to stop her abusive actions toward him.
- Poetic justice is a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished in such a way that the reward or punishment has a logical connection to the deed. In modern literature, this device is often used to create an ironic twist of fate in which the villain gets caught up in his/her own trap. For example, in C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy, Prince Rabadash climbs upon a mounting block during the battle in Archenland. Upon jumping down while shouting "The bolt of Tash falls from above," his hauberk catches on a hook and leaves him hanging there, humiliated and trapped. Another example of poetic justice can be found in Chris Van Allsburg's picture book, The Sweetest Fig, where a cold-hearted dentist is cruel to his dog and ends up getting his comeuppance.
There's no accurate definition to this, but I'll refer to the Wikipedia's nearest brief definition.
- Chekhov's gun refers to a situation in which a character or plot element is introduced early in the narrative. Often the usefulness of the item is not immediately apparent until it suddenly attains pivotal significance. A similar mechanism is the "plant", a preparatory device that repeats throughout the story. During the resolution, the true significance of the plant is revealed.
It's complicated for me, but I'll try to define it by myself.
This is a twist where a certain character provides false information/clues that lead the investigators to an incorrect conclusion. Although not generally used in horror genre, it can be used to detective stories and mystery fiction, if you ever feel like being Sir Conan Doyle or Sherlock.
- A red herring is a false clue intended to lead investigators toward an incorrect solution. This device usually appears in detective novels and mystery fiction. The red herring is a type of misdirection, a device intended to distract the protagonist, and by extension the reader, away from the correct answer or from the site of pertinent clues or action. The Indian murder mystery film Gupt: The Hidden Truth cast many veteran actors who had usually played villainous roles in previous Indian films as red herrings in this film to deceive the audience into suspecting them. In the bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code, the misdeeds of a key character named "Bishop Aringarosa" draw attention away from the true master villain. "Aringarosa" literally means "red herring." A red herring can also be used as a form of false foreshadowing.
In Media Res
This one literally starts at the middle part of the story, not at the beginning, not at the end. The description of the protagonist, the setting, every details are revealed through means of series of flashbacks by the protagonist. This method generates the twist when the cause or reason for the events to happen is revealed at the climax. This is also a non-linear approach in writing a story.
- In medias res (Latin for "into the middle of things") is a literary technique in which narrative proceeds from the middle of the story rather than its beginning. Information such as characterization, setting, and motive is revealed through a series of flashbacks. This technique creates a twist when the cause for the inciting incident is not revealed until the climax. This technique is used within the film The Prestige in which the opening scenes show one of the main characters drowning and the other being imprisoned. Subsequent scenes reveal the events leading up to these situations through a series of flashbacks. In Monsters, a similar beginning proves to be a flashforward as it is the linear conclusion of the events that then follow; this is not apparent until the end. In medias res is often used to provide a narrative hook.
This works if a story reveals details in a non-chronological order. The information is fragmented and put into different parts of the story. Non-linear narrative also requires the readers to try to connect the separated information together to create a chronological story in their minds, like connecting the dots.
- A non-linear narrative works by revealing plot and character in non-chronological order. This technique requires the reader to attempt to piece together the timeline in order to fully understand the story. A twist ending can occur as the result of information that is held until the climax and which places characters or events in a different perspective. Some of the earliest known uses of non-linear story telling occur in The Odyssey, a work that is largely told in flashback via the narrator Odysseus. The nonlinear approach has been used in works such as the films Mulholland Drive, Sin City, Premonition, Pulp Fiction, the television show Lost (especially in many episodes in the later seasons), and the book Catch-22.
The story is written in a reverse chronological order: the story starts at the end and then end at the start. I think you don't need further explanation, as this already understood by people. I will refer to Wikipedia's definition.
- Reverse chronology works by revealing the plot in reverse order, i.e., from final event to initial event. Unlike chronological storylines, which progress through causes before reaching a final effect, reverse chronological storylines reveal the final effect before tracing the causes leading up to it; therefore, the initial cause represents a "twist ending." Examples employing this technique include the films Irréversible and Memento, the play Betrayal by Harold Pinter, and Martin Amis' Time's 'Arrow.
On this one, I have define my personal types of plot twists. You may use this anytime you want. These are comeback, improvised items, backstab, white hats, normalcy, unreasonable disappearance, repetition, and non-existent characters/events.
In this one, the antagonist or any character related to the protagonist, will return in the story, yet the protagonist knows that character has already disappeared or died. Although already classified a cliche, as stated on the Creepy Cliches page, it still qualifies as a type of plot twist due to its potential to surprise the reader. In films, this is one of the best plot twist a story writer can write, but in writing, this is the epitome of unoriginality: That's why it's classified as a cliche! It still can be used, anyway.
It can be also referred to an event of the story. That event may already be finished, as the protagonist knows, but has the ability to return.
Before, I have read a great example of comeback.
The ending of this story incorporates the use of this plot twist.
This is not generally used in most horror subgenres, but can be used in some. In this one, an item the protagonist has, yet having only one purpose, can be used for different things. The item can also be useless, but will be proved useful at the climax/end (refer to Chekhov's gun).
Example, you can use a gun for shooting people or evil malignant creatures if you shall, if your story ever has this. When the gun has ran out of bullets, you can use its handle to hit certain things. That's an example, because it is used countless of times in action movies.
Another example, a key that is picked up at the start of the story. It is useless until the protagonist finds the door/chest/et cetera where it fits, mostly at the climax/end of the story. Having picked up a key on the start of the story will just lead it on the plot where the protagonist will search for the place it fits, though.
But it's still a plot twist, because we are not sure if the protagonist will find that place or not, or where this place might be. Don't mind if the key already serves a purpose at the first, for opening a door.
This can also be related to Chekhov's Gun.
(Note: I'm not even sure if this qualifies as plot twist, but just accept the mere fact of it being placed here, it is already considered a plot twist.)
In this one, a protagonist's ally is revealed to be the real antagonist of the story, usually revealed at the climax/end of the story. This one starts by knowing the protagonist is safe with the existence of this fake ally beside him, then at the near end/end, the ally is revealed to be the real antagonist of the story, possibly studying his/her every actions. In short, betrayal. You can call this one backstabbing. The antagonist the protagonist first knew can have no relation to the characters in the story, at all, or can be revealed to be the real ally of the protagonist.
In this one, the antagonist actually has no malicious intent to the protagonist, and can be revealed at any part of the story. The purpose for doing such things is to indirectly inform the protagonist of something, but can be seen by the protagonist malicious. This only applies to human/knowledgeable antagonists, not to creatures, or the sorts. I don't know if this can be used in horror, but you can try!
In this one, the unpleasant psychological, physical, or emotional state of the protagonist slowly goes back to normal. For the stories' having irreversible/permanent character abnormality, this can be classified as plot twist, as almost every horror stories have no heavily flawed characters going back to their normal lives. This mostly leads to a good ending, but it still depends on the writer's taste.
FYI, I haven't read any story with this twist, so it's probably your chance to write such stories.
In this one, a certain character, if not the protagonist him/herself, disappears with no appropriate reason, or no reason at all. It is classified as a plot twist because the reader didn't know the reason why that person suddenly vanished, or what happened to him/her. This can also lead to discovery of the reason why that person vanished, or what happened to him/her, and mostly put at the climax/end of the story.
I'm not even sure if this is really a plot twist type... but I'll just gonna take that.
This can also be used to items or places, as portrayed by this story.
In this one, the protagonist is stuck in a loop of events. That event will keep on happening to him, no matter how hard the protagonist tries to get out of the loop. This is already considered a cliche by a reasonable amount of people, as it is already used A THOUSANDS OF TIMES (I admit; I even used it once) but it still qualifies a plot twist, if done AMBIGUOUSLY enough.
A best example of this is this story.
The title says it all. In this one, the antagonist which the protagonist believes to be true, is actually false and non-existent. The protagonist just have the antagonist only in his/her mind, and it really doesn't exist in real life. This also applies to different characters in the story. This plot twist is arguably one the best plot twist, but too bad, it was not internationally acknowledged, but it is widely used in horror genres.
This story is probably the best example of this.
This is just exactly like Non-existent Characters, but this applies to certain events in the story. That event may actually didn't happen, and it's just the protagonist's imagination, or maybe due to the protagonist's severe paranoia.
I think there are still many more, but it's up to your discovery of them. Above are just examples.
Where to Add Plot Twists?
You can add plot twists anywhere you want, but let me leave one note—they must logical and related to the story. Even you can put it anywhere in the story, there are also recommended and not recommended ones.
- At the beginning - Just don't, please, unless you're writing a story with a reverse chronological twist.
- At the middle - At this part of the story, it's best to have another consequent plot twist contrasting with this to avoid blanding up your story.
- At the end - This is the most used, and probably the best. As most of you know, plot twists are always found at the end of stories.
When to Add Plot Twists?
If you think your story is very predictable, then I strongly recommend you to have a plot twist at the end of your story. With this, you will surprise the reader with the shock ending you've provided. You gave them an ending they didn't expect to come, thus, you "blew their minds out", just like what I said earlier.
If you think you're story is mysterious and doesn't provide much information, then you might not need them somehow. Your story is difficult to predict due to lack of details. There's no need for a plot twist. But at least, if you want to add them, then go for it! There's no one going to stop you.
Why Do I Have to Add Plot Twists?
Do you want a story that is nearly impossible to find when thrown into a pit of thousands of other creepypastas sharing the same theme? That's probably the reason why you don't want to write a story that is beyond impossible to find, you need to make your story unique.
Ask yourself, what makes a story unique? The ending of a story is what makes a story unique. One example is the micropasta Mother's Call. If you want an TL;DR for that, then here it goes—the story starts with a girl playing with her toys. Her mother calls her from the kitchen, so the girl put down her toys and went downstairs. On her way, someone from the cupboard pulled her, that being her mother. She said to her daughter that she was hiding, because she heard it too.
If analyze it logically, it is very unpredictable. That's what make a story unique: the ending. Focus on the darkly-twisted ending of the story, then treat the other parts of the story like how you treated the ending.
I don't want to add them. What now?
As long as you can face the consequences, then go for it. But if you are afraid that your literary work will be called "common" or a "spawn/rip-off of previously famous stories", then give it a shot. There are thousands of horror stories out there, both on-site and off-site.
Illustrating it, example, there are a thousands of zeros in an image. To make your story distinguishable, you must write a number one in the middle of the image. The zeros represent the other stories, while the number one represents yours. If you will stare at the image, the number one is very visible. That's your goal. You should create a unique piece of work.
Sometimes, a uniqueness of a story is based on its elements—setting, characters, plot line, writing style, originality, dialogue (if your story ever has one), and miscellaneous. At rare instances, a story is classified as unique when the ending of the story is unique itself. Therefore, some stories are unique because of their endings, just as I said, in my personal opinion.
If you are going to create a plot line with the elements of a teen, portrayed as a serial murderer, then it is just horribly unoriginal. When does bleach become inflammable? Is it possible to carve a smile in your face without bleeding to death, or can you handle the pain it will create? Do you think burning eyelids don't make you blind? Do you think children can kill their own parents, or other adults? (Definitely, yes.) Have you ever imagined a child being bullied, then suddenly goes sadistic, then goes on a killing spree? If you're familiar with this questions, you might have known this story. This story has spawned so many spin-offs, therefore making the plot line unoriginal, altered or not altered. If you're going to write an unintentional spin-off, be careful, always, always, always. It's the best practice to formulate original plot lines, or at least "inspired" plot lines.
Inspirations from other famous stories are fine, but directly ripping the story line off then slapping it into your story, it is just plainly terrible and unethical. Inspirations don't incorporate story elements heavily similar to other stories. At some greatly terrible instances, anyone who writes directly copied or slightly edited (those who copy stories, then modifying few elements) stories, it can be considered PLAGIARISM. So be careful when writing a heavily-inspired story; you might unintentionally copy someone's work.
Oh... sorry. I'm getting out of hand. Let's go back to the main topic.
- When writing a very predictable or common story, spice it up by changing the ending or climax with a substitute, which we can call a "plot twist".
- If your intention in the very first part of the production of your story is to add a plot twist, it is advised to tackle common or vague plot lines, then brighten them up by adding the plot twist.
- In contrast, your story can still have a plot twist together with a Sir Conan Doyle-esque plot line. Although not really encouraged, it still can be used, however.
- If you're plan is to write a story with a Reverse Chronology twist, as always, you will need to start at the very end, going back to the initial point, as based on some of my researches and personal opinions, it is best to add two plot twists, one at the "climax" and another one to the "start" (which is the end).
- If you can avoid the Comeback plot twist, avoid it as much as you can, IF NOT NEEDED. I will assume, you have read almost hundreds of story with that plot twist. It's NOT advisable, because it counts as a cliche, but it still can be used, however.
- About the backstab plot twist, as long as the ally of the protagonist is not suspicious enough, then you can pull it out with ease. However, if the ally is starting cast doubts at the start or middle part of the story, it is the best practice to have the ally of your protagonist to be the main antagonist.
- In addition, you may start the story with no real antagonist, then reveal at the ending that the ally is the real culprit. THAT'S WHAT I CALL A PLOT TWIST!
- At the repetition p-twist, don't make reason of the repetition ridiculously obvious. If you ever going to have a part where the protagonist sees a grafitti on the wall saying, "DEATH IS GOING TO GET YOU", it makes it predictable, although the existence of the word DEATH will create doubts to the reader, whether the death is literal, a metaphor, or just "blah blah blah..." of the story.
- Discussing the Normalcy part, if you are planning to have a good ending, then let nothing happen to the once-and-again normal reader. But... If you are planning to have a bad ending, then make sure something bad will happen, and it can be worse than before. If the problem of the protagonist is like epilepsy, it keeps on coming back, it's better to have a bad ending. The bad ending of this is like Comeback.
- About the Non-existent characters, it is best to have a non-physical character, or a character rendered only by the protagonist's vision, thus an "imagination" or "hallucination" of the protagonist. However, as an example, you can use the mental illness elements like psychosis, making the protagonist think he is in "danger", and someone is out there to "attack" him, even actually, not.
- Generally, use plot twists as much as possible. That's an advice. Much more generally, don't forget to write with grammar proper, "proper-punctuation', prepper spiling, ProPer CaPiTaLiZaTion, proper lexes/terminologies, and a proper and original storyline. Followin' these are needed, and are required.
One More Note...
When formulating a plot twist, make sure there's a connection between the story and the twist, and make sure there's a degree of sense. Do you want to a write story about woman torturing her friend, then the ending reveals that it was actually her friend torturing her? It is bad, because it is. Does it make sense? Does it have connection with the events? Is it possible to happen in real life? If your answer to all of these questions is no, then think about your life again. If your answer to all of these is yes, then you're on the right path. Keep that up!
"Plot twist is love, plot twist is life!"