This post was inspired by my fantastically-talented CP, Lanette Kauten, and her manuscript, CASSIA. I was critiquing it for her when I predicted a plot twist due to a clue she left before. Every other person she showed the manuscript to did not predict the plot twist and they were shocked when it occurred. Everyone, that is, but me (call me Detective SC from now on, I won't mind).
Now, there will probably always be someone who figures out the plot twists in your novel (I say 'probably' because JK Rowling had millions of people trying to figure out her ingeniously-planted twists and I don't think anyone predicted every single one). The question is, how do you keep the suspense and tension strong even when the reader correctly predicts the plot twist?
If the twist is way too obvious or if your novel is a mystery novel, sure, make it harder to figure it out. But we're assuming that the twist is sufficiently hard to figure out. Even so, there will always be that one reader who guesses correctly. The secret is not to try making the plot twist even harder to figure out because someone will figure it out. Accept that fact. The secret is to make the story full of suspense even if the reader finds out the twist. And that's hard.
The Secret to an Amazing Plot Twist
Make the story interesting and full of tension even if a reader figures out the plot twist. Basically, accommodate the readers that are detectives.
The trick to writing a bad plot twist is to rely on the 'big reveal' to be the only driving force of tension in your novel. A Detective Reader (that's what we'll call them from now on) will figure it out and then there'll be no point in reading anymore. It'll be boring.
I'm going to give you the two best options as to what you can do:
|I do not own this picture; all rights go to their|
2. You can make the journey, not the destination, the interesting part. This is what is most commonly employed in writing. Just think: how many times have you figured out who the bad guy is (most of the Dan Brown novels, anyone?) but you keep reading because you want to know how the main character will figure it out? A love for the main character (or a love for the journey and secrets, in Dan Brown's case) is what drives this strategy. You've got to make your main character engrossing, and you've got to make the reader care for him/her.
Personally, I think option two is much more viable because option one lends itself best to mystery novels or subplots that involve a mystery. Not every novel has that. Option two, however, is fantastic for almost every novel. Think about how even if you know how a movie or book ends, you still watch/read it because you want to experience the journey. That was the movie "Philomena," for me. (Good gosh that movie was incredible.) In fact, I think making the journey engrossing is a crucial aspect to almost any novel.
A note: I've been thirsting to finish Lanette Kauten's book because of option number 2. I love the characters in her novel. Her book is a good example of how to keep tension strong without relying only on the plot twist!
So, if you ever want to write a truly amazing plot twist, use one of the two options above - and never, ever (this is one of the only times I've said 'never'!) grossly underestimate your reader!
Do you guys have anything to add? What are your techniques to writing awesome plot twists? Which option is your personal favorite?