Why You Should Twist Your Plot – Sandra Ardoin

Posted by on Aug 5, 2015 | 8 comments

Why You Should Twist Your Plot – Sandra Ardoin

Surprises can be good or bad, but if you’re writing fiction an unexpected twist in the plot can make or break your story. Sandra Ardoin shares some reasons why readers love plot twists and how to keep them coming back for more. 



Wandering Wednesdays

“How is she going to write herself out of this corner?”

Have you ever been reading along and thought how impossible it would be for the author’s character to squirm out of the inevitable? But he does and you’re left with a jaw unhinged. This is especially typical of suspense and thrillers, which is a reason so many people read them.

“Wow, I didn’t expect that.”

Maybe you think you have the story figured out, then come to a place in the novel where the author hits you with something you never saw coming—like the fictional version of a two-by-four.

Surprise endings. Plot twists. They can make or break a story. I want to be the kind of writer who leaves the reader shaking her head and smiling, not scratching her head and saying, “Why did I waste my time?”

After reading the word “predictable” on a couple of rejections, I decided I must work harder to develop twists in my stories. I don’t want my readers to close my book, wrinkle their noses, and proclaim, “Boring!”

If we want to create the types of major plot twists that drop the jaw, we must:

Do so within the context of the overall plot. Don’t throw something in for the fun of it. The twist must make sense in the grand scheme of your story and advance the plot, which leads to …

Foreshadow the twist. I’ll admit, this is something I still struggle with doing well. How much information should trickle out beforehand? It’s not easy to walk the line between trusting the reader to get it and having them say, “I saw that coming a mile away.” In this case, less is more. It’s also a matter of including the right clues, but …

Throw in a red herring or two. The red herring—the false clue—is a staple of the mystery plot. Even in a contemporary romance, it’s possible to allow the reader to believe one thing, then …

Choose the right time to hit them with the truth. It doesn’t need to be a surprise ending. It can occur in the middle or maybe three-quarters of the way through. Make sure the reader is invested in your story before you slam them with that two-by-four. It will make a greater impact.

Don’t read me wrong. It’s best if no scene is predictable. But one surprise plot twist and/or one unpredictable climax will have your reader coming back for more of your stories.

Last year, I submitted a short story to a flash fiction magazine and received a reply that the editor liked it in general, but it was (can we all say it?) predictable. It needed a twist. He recommended a few possibilities, one of which stood out to me over the others. So I changed the ending, added a little foreshadowing and false trails, and resubmitted. “Ellie’s Escape,” appeared in Splickety a year ago, and they asked to add it to their upcoming anthology.

We write to entertain and we want word of our books to go viral. Including a major plot twist or two and doing it well can mean the difference between that word being “Wow!” or “Boring!”

By Sandra Ardoin

About the author:

 Sandra ArdoinSandra Ardoin is a multi-published author of short fiction who writes inspirational historical romance. Her Christmas novella, The Yuletide Angel, is available on Amazon. She’s the married mother of a young adult and lives in North Carolina.

Connect with Sandra:

The Yuletide Angel, A Christmas Novella The Yuletide Angel

A Reluctant Melody – Coming January 2016

Google+, Goodreads, Pinterest


  1. Thanks so much for letting me share a few words with your readers, Norma!

  2. I like surprises in a book or something that causes a reader to feel an emotional response. If a reader gets angry along with a character or feels like crying over a situation in the book … then you’ve accomplished something amazing, if only for a few seconds.

    • Exactly, Karen! Even when we only want to be entertained by a story, we still want that emotional response. It doesn’t even have to be negative. Sometimes, a good twist is reading a fairly serious book and coming upon a part that makes us laugh out loud, because we weren’t expecting it.

    • Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Karen!

  3. Great post, Sandy. I much prefer plot twists in the books I read over surprises in life. Why is that? Hmmm…

    • Thank you, Dora. Yes, surprises in real life are not always pleasant, but I think we all have that need for them. Otherwise, life is boring. 🙂 I guess that’s why reading and watching TV is so popular. We’re allowed to live vicariously through fictional people, people who will absorb the negative of life for us.

  4. Thank you, Dora. Yes, plot twists in the lives of fictional people can definitely be less stressful than those surprises in real life!

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