The Art of Creating a Clever Plot Twist

The Art of Creating a Clever Plot Twist


A plot twist can make or break a story. The right type of plot twist is something audiences will remember. A plot twist can surprise, anger, or sadden the audience. Of course, there needs to be a great storyline and character development, but a plot twist brings intrigue and depth to a narrative.


One of the most renowned plot twists can be seen in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”, when Darth Vader tells Luke that he is his father. (This classic favorite can be enjoyed on Hulu with the Disney+ package.)



What is a Plot Twist


A plot twist is unexpected by the audience. It can change the direction of the storyline. And it can give a different meaning to the outcome of a story if the plot twist takes place at the end. Plot twists can be subtle, shocking, revealing, clever or a combination of all four.


A creative plot twist gives the audience the expectation that something is going to take place but has no idea what. Or the plot twist can come as a complete shock. They are used to keep the audience guessing and engaged in the story.


Plot twists are used mainly in genres like horror, crime, mystery, and can also be used in historical fiction. Plot twists that occur at the end of the movie are also called a surprise ending. Stephen King and George Lucas are good examples of writers who have given us some of the best plot twists of all time. Some of the most famous plot twists include:


  • “The Shining”: When after the father, played by Jack Nicholson, freezes to death, the movie shows a photo of a 1921 New Year’s Eve party with the father in the photo.
  • “The Others”: When it was revealed that the main characters were actually the ghosts.
  • “Murder on the Orient Express”: When detective Hercule Poirot discovers all suspects are the murderers.
  • “The Sixth Sense”: When at the end, the audience finds out the psychologist (played by Bruce Willis) is actually dead.


Some plot twists are so surprising they even become a popular phrase. “Soylent Green” is a good example of this with the famous phrase, “Soylent Green is people!”


Creating a Plot Twist


Some authors put more than one plot twist in the story, and others only add one major plot twist. Either way, a plot twist needs to be pertinent to the story and not just thrown in to confuse the audience.


The audience should never see a plot twist coming, or at least not be overly obvious. The plot twist has to make sense. It cannot be so outrageous that it borders on the ridiculous, and it has to be logical. Writing a plot twist just for the sake of writing it could annoy the audience more than intrigue them.


It is best to create a plot twist in the planning stage of the story by finding places that could surprise the audience. Plot twists shouldn’t be forced to fit the story. They have to flow naturally, which allows for a logical conclusion.


A plot twist should not be placed too close to the beginning of a story. If it is, it can lose importance as the story progresses. Most successful plot twists occur in the last half of a story or at the very end.


The best plot twists will involve the main characters, the protagonists, or the antagonist. It can be anything like an amazing revelation, the surprise twist of a character’s true intentions, revealing a secret, or reversing a character’s role like the hero is actually the bad guy in the story. A few plot twist tips include:


  • Use a red herring or misdirection in the plot twist. A red herring distracts or misleads the audience, creating a surprising twist no one saw coming. It is the writer’s equivalent of the sleight of hand a magician uses.
  • Foreshadowing is a plot twist when the writer will give hints and clues about what is to come.
  • The plot has to be believable and realistic enough for the audience to accept the twist. Audiences don’t like to feel duped.



Examples of Plot Twists in Movies


The best way to learn how to create plot twists is to study how other writers created plot twists in their movies. A good movie that used red herring plot twists is “Blade Runner 2049”, which is almost entirely created using a red herring. You can watch this movie on streaming services like Philo.


There are two types of foreshadowing, direct (overt) and indirect (covert). With direct foreshadowing, the audience will plainly see suggestions of future events, problems, or a plot twist. An example of direct foreshadowing is in “Macbeth” when the witches predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, and then later when he becomes king. “Macbeth” can be seen on Hulu and other streaming services.


Indirect foreshadowing is more subtle, with only hints and subtle clues throughout the plot. An example of indirect foreshadowing can be seen in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”, when Luke sees his own face behind Darth Vader’s mask.  



A clever plot twist is not necessary for a good story, but it can enhance a story and keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Plot twists are usually found in crime, mystery and horror movies and books.


There are different kinds of plot twists, with red herring and foreshadowing being the most popular. A story can have one or several plot twists, and some save the main plot twist for the ending. A good way to learn how to create plot twists is to read and watch what other writers have written.

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