• Carol Alwood

Writing Plot Twists

Do you ever struggle with putting interesting plot twists into your stories?

This post provides four strategies for generating interesting plot twists for your writing.

The first idea is probably one you've heard a million times, and that is...

1. Ask what if questions.

What if the main character (mc) was sick?

What if the mc wasn’t sick?

What if the mc ran away from home? What if they stayed?

What if a character said, “____?”

What if I wrote this story in a different season? Different year? Different setting?

What if the mc was friends with the antagonist at the beginning of the story?

What if the mc was protecting the antagonist?

The questions could go on forever.



Maybe you already ask what if questions, but have you asked enough? Ask “what if” questions until you're sick of asking the questions, and that's when you’ll probably get to the great ideas. By going further with this strategy, you might just get into the interesting layers beneath the story, so keep asking yourself those questions.

Ask “what if” questions...

· before you write your book

· as you're writing your book

· in the middle of your book

The midpoint of your story is when everything changes again, so it's a great time to evaluate and as you ask more questions so plot-twisty ideas might show up.

2. The second technique is called thinking three steps out.

I learned this when I was teaching drama at a local high school. While teaching drama, I also oversaw an improv team. During improv, the actors' job is to come up with unique ideas. They're supposed to build on others’ ideas. They’re taught not to take just the first idea that pops into their head because often the first idea is obvious, or maybe it has been used a lot. They used a technique called thinking three steps out.

I’ll give you an example of this...

If you're given a topic, you think of the first thing that comes to mind, and you think of the next thing, then you think another step out.

· Let’s say my first idea was eating tacos. I need to take it a step out, so eating tacos makes me think of Mexico.

· My second idea would be Mexico.

· Mexico makes me think of beautiful oceans, so that's my third idea.

If I'm given the topic of tacos, I might go with oceans. The method is to build from your ideas to go beyond the mundane way of looking at a topic. You can also try to take it three steps out in a more abstract way. My example is concrete, so I could show the technique.

3. The third technique I'd like to tell you about is take a U-turn.

If your ideas are going one way, take them the other direction. Do a 180-degree turn. This will not only surprise the reader, but it will make it more interesting for you as the writer. Sometimes when I find myself bored because the plan I made becomes uninteresting, I’ll change the idea entirely and continue in a new direction. This can be fun for the reader because it's unexpected, and it can create a plot twist. This can keep readers turning pages and keep them excited about where the story is headed.

4. The final technique I'd like to share with it's called putting a red herring in your novel.

Your story is going one way, and readers think one outcome is going to happen, but if you embed alternate ideas within the plot in subtle ways, you can surprise the reader. They think one thing will happen, but something else occurs. This kind of plot twist can surprise the reader and make them happy they’re reading your book if you use this method well.

Thank you for taking the time to read about ways to include plot twists in your stories. L

eave a comment, and we can discuss more methods for writing plot twists that work.


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©2020 by Carol Alwood.

Contact Carol carol@carolalwood.com

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