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How to add a twist to a story

How to add a twist to a story

As I (very cleverly) hinted in my previous article, foreshadowing is something which every writer should do if they want to include a plot twist in their story.

If you are not sure what foreshadowing is, then it basically means hinting at things which will happen in the future. In other words, if you’re going to add a plot twist to your story, then you need to leave a few subtle clues about it before it happens. Otherwise, it isn’t a plot twist – it’s a rather cheap and melodramatic “Tomato Surprise” which can leave your readers feeling more than a bit cheated.

The reason why foreshadowing is so important is because all stories consist of a logical progression of events. If you look it up in a dictionary, this is probably what you will find under “story”. As such, throwing something completely unexpected and illogical at your readers will probably confuse them and break the suspension of disbelief which is essential for most stories.

Foreshadowing your plot twists avoids this by giving your readers enough subliminal hints that your plot twist could at least possibly be a logical and believable part of the story.

The real trick is to make sure that you foreshadow your plot twist in a way that means that most of your readers won’t guess it before it happens but, when they re-read your story, they will suddenly notice all of the little clues which hinted at the plot twist later in your story. This is, of course, a way of giving your story “added value” to readers who are re-reading it too.

I’d give you a list of examples of stories with very well-written plot twists, but this would inevitably involve ruining the surprise. But, if you want an old and well-known example, then read Ambrose Bierce’s excellent short story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge“.

One plot twist you must never use without a lot of foreshadowing is the classic “it was all a dream” plot twist. This is an old plot twist and, more likely than not, your readers will still feel cheated unless it is done in a new and innovative way and there is a ton of very clever foreshadowing.

Ok, how do I do this “foreshadowing” thing?

What you need to do to foreshadow a plot twist is obviously different for every story and every plot twist, but here are some of the more well-known ways of foreshadowing plot twists. Be aware that because they’re so well-known, your readers may be more likely to spot them, so if you can think of a more inventive foreshadowing technique- then use it!

Anyway, without any further ado, here are four common ways to foreshadow a plot twist:

– Double meanings: You have to be careful with this one, since it can reveal your plot twist if it’s done badly, but if you include a few lines of dialogue which have double meanings (one referring to the plot twist and one referring to another subject) then this can be a good way of foreshadowing a plot twist. However, it has been done quite often, so readers might be more aware of it than they might have been a few decades ago.

One cheesy example of this could be if you are writing a horror story where the plot twist is that the man who your protagonist is dating is actually a vampire (and not one of the harmless, sparkly types of vampire either). Then you could add a few lines of dialogue earlier in the story where the vampire says things like “yes, I go out drinking every night” and “I’m not really much of a morning person” etc… These both refer to the fact that he’s a vampire, but they also have perfectly innocent explanations too.

– Mystery: If there is something slightly mysterious about a character or something subtly strange about the setting of your story, then this can be a good way of hinting that there could be something else going on without actually giving your readers any explicit clues.

One well-known example of this in sci-fi fiction is the flawed utopia. Everything in a city/planet/spaceship looks perfect – but very slightly too perfect. Of course, it isn’t long before the main characters learn that there is something far more sinister going on behind the scenes.

– Misdirection: This is where you distract the reader with something else whilst you hint at your plot twist. This technique works best in comics, films etc.. but it can also work well in prose fiction if it is done carefully (eg: burying a subtle clue about a plot twist in a conversation about something far more interesting).

Another clever, but more difficult, technique involving misdirection is to add a few “red herrings” (note: this link contains spoilers to ‘The Da Vinci Code’) to your story which lead your reader to expect a plot twist which is very different to what the actual plot twist is (although this must be done in a way that the “clues” could reasonably be applied to either plot twist).

-Hiding it in plain sight: This can be truly spectacular when it’s done well. Basically, you don’t hide the clue itself but you don’t tell your readers that it’s a clue. This one is kind of similar to the previous point on this list, but it has to be handled slightly differently.

In essence, this works best with things which are part of the scenery (for example, a mysterious old statue outside the house where your horror story is being set) or elements of a particular character (for example, a character has a mysterious scar with a seemingly logical explanation to it etc….)

Just remember to either have a character talk about or see something related to the plot twist. Going back to my earlier example about the statue, you could have your protagonist talk to someone else who briefly mentions myths about statues. Or your protagonist briefly read the title of an old book which mentions living statues whilst he or she is looking through a pile of other old books [this is also a good example of misdirection too].

Of course, if the clues are subtle enough, then when the statue suddenly comes to life and starts attacking everyone near the end of the story – then your readers will be shocked, but they won’t feel cheated.

Everyone loves a good plot twist! The moment where everything changes unexpectedly in your story. But as writers, it’s not always easy coming up with remarkable plot twists that will amaze your readers. So to help you out, here are over 20 short story ideas with a twist that will shock your readers. You might also want to read our post on how to come up with good story ideas for further help and inspiration.

Over 20 Short Story Ideas With a Twist

When you’re staring at a blank page or just need something to brighten up your current story or piece of flash fiction, just add in any of these fun and wacky plot twist ideas:

  1. An evil warlock who sets out to destroy the world, but ends up saving it.
  2. A superhero who catches the bad guy, but actually helps the “real” bad guy getaway or escape.
  3. An everyday boy walks up from a coma to discover the world has been taken over by aliens – But is this all a dream?
  4. You wake up one day to realise that you can talk to dogs. But it turns out that you have been turned into an actual dog. More doggy prompts on our writing prompts about dogs post.
  5. In a war between humans and aliens, you lose your best friend. However, he/she is really alive and working with the aliens.
  6. Life is good, life is perfect until you realise everything is a hologram and the real world is a dark and broken place.
  7. The hero of your story realises that they were the villain all along. It was their actions that made the villain the evil person they are today.
  8. After years of not believing, you find out that Santa Clause was actually real. More Santa prompts on our Christmas writing prompts advent calendar post.
  9. The hero of your story finds out that their best-friend was the real bad guy all along.
  10. You realise that your whole life was a dream and you only just woke up now.
  11. A zombie who wants to become a vegetarian – Now that’s a strange combination!
  12. The hero of your story dies before the final battle scene and a new hero is revealed.
  13. It turns out dragons are real and all along they have been living deep underground. It turns out that they are the real cause of global warming and heat waves everywhere. Read our post on fantasy writing prompts for more magical stuff.
  14. To your surprise, the birthday wish you made actually comes true.
  15. In a futuristic world, humans are fighting against robots to keep their race alive. However, it turns out that everyone is a robot anyway and the true human race died out years ago.
  16. A random natural disaster like an earthquake or a hurricane happens, giving your hero another extra thing to worry about.
  17. Your main character is a werewolf hunter, but it turns out that he himself is a werewolf (see our werewolf name generator for some cool name ideas).
  18. An evil conman (or any other type of villain) turns out to be your hero’s only saviour.
  19. Your main character is the good guy and the bad guy in your story, as they have a rare split personality disorder.
  20. All your life you knew your best friend. But one day you find out that your real best friend passed away years ago and was replaced by a robot.
  21. Things have been getting stolen around town and your main character has to solve the case. However, it turns out that your main character was the thief all along. They probably didn’t know it because they were sleepwalking.
  22. Your character has been keeping a secret, which is only unveiled at the very end of your story – Possibly ending your story with a cliffhanger!
  23. All your life you have been told not to leave your house, as you will turn to stone if you do. But the real truth is that the witch that cursed you, is the one who will turn to stone if you leave. You might want to read our post on fairytale ideas for more inspiration.
  24. Your parents have told you to avoid the deep forest at all cost, as a deadly monster lives there. But you actually find out that the monster is a made-up story told by the town people to keep you from leaving town.
  25. After reading a magical book, you gain some magical powers. However, it turns out that you always had these magical abilities inside of you. And the magical book is just an ordinary storybook with no magical abilities whatsoever.

What do you think of these short story ideas with a twist? Are they twisty enough for you? Let us know in the comments below.

How to add a twist to a story

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he’s not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

A plot twist is an unexpected event or turn of events in a story that entirely alters the storyline’s trajectory/direction.

Examples of plot twists.

1. Reveal to your characters and the audience that what our characters think they want is not what they need.

After a character realizes that what they have been seeking is not what they need the story automatically turns into a new direction.

2. Reveal some shocking important information to your characters and the audience.

3. Present the death or substitution of a major significant character from the plot.

4. Get the antagonist to hold our hero on the verge, then decide to give them a second chance. Automatically the audience will be “ So what? ”, “ What’s next “

6. Give your main character a chance to defeat the antagonist but it has a certain cost in such a way that the main character decides to let them go.

6. Add betrayal in the hero’s team, OR make the main character partner with a minor antagonist, some awful/ awkward friendship.

7. Add heartbreaks, disappointments and betrayals between the character’s relationships.

Another bonus tip that I don’t think may fit well in the above list is to hide clues as much as you can, add surprises to your plot, remember that a plot twist is just some sort of unexpected type of thing that changes the direction of the story.

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How to add a twist to a story

Every story deserves a Plot Twist. But what makes an effective twist for your novel or short story? I’ve been looking into this in my own work, and have come up with the following list.

  1. If you want to understand plot twists, tell a joke. Both for the laughs it gets, and to understand the plot twist in its barest form. Jokes have two parts—setup and punchline. Punchlines pack punch only with a good setup. Hear that? The setup makes the joke. If you didn’t have Abbott, there’d be no Costello. What kind of setup do you need? One your reader/listener totally buys into. Like punchlines, the plot twist only raises the stakes when the setup is real. But that’s not all…
  2. All good jokes are stories, but stories are not always jokes. Jokes are deliberately deceptive. Stories mask their deception in character and scene and subplot and a whole lot of other seductive and soothing come-ons. Jokes follow one line of distraction, while a story’s path should have many. That’s their beauty. The reader never knows where the deception is coming from. In the end, the joke is only about its punchline. The story is about the telling, taking the reader on an enticing adventure. A joke engages you for a minute. A good story for a lifetime. And something more…
  3. A story’s punchline isn’t necessarily funny. Sad, comeuppance, fear, spiritual growth—these are all fine outcomes for your story. Here, jokes and stories diverge. A joke ends at its punchline. Finito! A plot twist does not end its story, it propels its reader deeper into it. Jokes end at the punchline. Plot twists take stories in a new direction
  4. Your story may have a single plot twist, or it may twist multiple times throughout. Either way, there should be one major plot twist, and it must be impactful. Big. Big enough to cast the story in a brand-new light. How to do this? By contradicting the reader’s belief about the story but not what they know. A skillful setup disguises suggestions and facts as one creation. A good plot twist separates the two, debunking the suggestions and reaffirming the facts. That’s the Aha! beauty of the plot twist. It forces the reader to examine what the author told them about the story versus what they imagined. To see how the familiar blends with the unrecognizable. A plot twist both asks and answers a reader’s questions while never contradicting the absolute truths the writer has taught along the path of the storytelling.
  5. So, plot twists–a pretty good thing, right? The more the merrier, wouldn’t you think? Multiple plot twists can heighten suspense in a story, I’m a believer in that. But if writing multiple twists, vary them in degree. Give your story some bang with its major plot twist, but spice up the story with smaller twists along the way. What’s important, don’t let your main plot twist pale in comparison to those that come before. Multiple plot twists should advance in degree, and never go backwards. Always be building suspense. Never retreat.
  6. Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe multiple plot twists are cumbersome and should only be written sparingly. How sparingly? Sparingly enough that they remain unpredictable. Once readers start saying, “oh, I bet this bit here turns into another plot twist” you’ve lost them. Like punchlines, plot twist are surprises. It’s not the number of twists that make a plot work, it’s their subtlety. Don’t be obvious. If your reader foresees a twist, it’s not a twist. It’s just an ordinary straight line. It’s all Abbot, no Costello. Plot twists sneak up and lay clear all the clues suggested beforehand. Think Henry James’ Turn of the Screw.
  7. When to use plot twists? Has your character grown boring? Are they navel gazing? Are they cursing too much and smoking too many cigarettes? It’s time for a plot twist. Because plot twists open characters up. They push them into action, into the next step of the plot. Plot twists are pivot points. That’s how they twist.
  8. Really? Yeah. Because a good plot twist changes a character’s fortune. If he or she is up, bring them down. If they’re down, bring them up. Not all the way maybe, but just enough. Good stories make characters overcome obstacles, and not too easily. Plot twists are the obstacles and tiny salvations characters encounter to make a good story.
  9. Here’s a plot twist I’m experimenting with in my next book. Change who the Antagonist is. Every story is really the antagonist’s story. The antagonist is the protagonist’s obstacle, and so naturally drives the plot. Antagonists can be bad guys or they can be unwitting accomplices (think Trump-Putin). Trump’s the weenie bad guy, the one who doesn’t know what he’s doing. He gets arrested, goes to prison, and the reader thinks whew, we escaped that disaster only to later find Putin’s still there threatening civilization. A plot twist is a devilish way of deepening the story, and this depends upon the new antagonist being an even bigger threat than the weenie antagonist. DISCLAIMER: All characters referenced in this example are fictional and not meant to represent any actual characters you may have heard about in life.
  10. Or, maybe don’t change who the antagonist is. Change the protagonist. Create a false protagonist, and then reveal another more noble substitute. I’m thinking here of Graham Greene’s Travels with my Aunt. How the doddering old aunt whom the protagonist despises turns out to be the adventurous one—the real protagonist. The real propeller of the story. Greene’s whole novel is a long revelation of this subtly funny plot twist that slowly builds and plays throughout. It makes the reader look back and realize the many hints Greene laid along the way. Dig that.

Why a plot twist? Because reading is all surprises. That’s why
we read. To learn from our surprises.

Think about it in a bigger way. A Buddhist way. Our everyday lives are filled with little plot twists to which we constantly adjust. Expectation and normalcy, these are delusions. Plot twists turn delusions on their heads. They twist them up with surprise. We don’t read to stay the way we are. We read to for the surprises.

In the end, there are two kinds of readers in the world—the Wolves and the Checkers. Howlin Wolf told us Do the Do! Good song, but what does it mean? Chubby Checker said Do the Twist! That I understand. That’s my mission. Twist it up.

Has inspiration evaporated? Is your imagination flagging?

Does your plot feel a little . limp?

No worries. I’ve got your back. Here are fifty (yes, FIFTY!) random ideas for plot twists. All ready to be adapted any which way, and popped into your beautiful work-in-progress.

Prepare to be re-energized.

In no order whatsoever, here they are. Fifty plot gems, at your disposal:

  1. Someone important to the action is poisoned.
  2. Give a minor character an unshakeable faith in something that the main character doesn’t believe in. How does this set them at odds?
  3. A case of mistaken identity: Someone mistakes your main character for an important cultural icon, a known villain, a spy, or someone from their past. Shenanigans ensue.
  4. The place that your character was just traveling toward–whether it was the kitchen, the school, or another city–suddenly no longer exists.
  5. Startling, direction-altering information is brought to your characters’ attention by . an animal.
  6. The next step for your main characters is revealed to one of them, with crystal clarity, in a dream. Only . it turns out that the dream was wrong.
  7. Your character is locked in a prison of some kind. The only way to get the key is by singing.
  8. Set an important scene in an art museum. One of the paintings or sculptures reminds your character of something important, long forgotten.
  9. A rumor gathers momentum and ugliness. It soon divides your main character from her allies.
  10. The only one they can trust right now is a con man.
  11. A coin toss takes on tremendous importance.
  12. A character is suddenly inducted into a secret society. Will the other members of the society be the worst sort of antagonists, or unexpected allies?
  13. It was the last thing they ever expected to find in the kitchen.
  14. What character does your protagonist most revere? And what happens when she finds out that that character isn’t all she thought?
  15. An unexpected gift seems like a wonderful present at first. But it quickly becomes a source of damage, chaos, and grief.
  16. The only one who (grudgingly) agrees with your main character is his least favorite person. Now they’ll have to work together.
  17. Their next bit of insight, or their next clue, comes from an important historic figure.
  18. Your characters have to escape into a garden. Which, it turns out, is full of something other than flowers and plants.
  19. There’s a word no one should say. Or a name that no one will mention. A place nobody talks about. Or a proverb that no one repeats. . Except for your main character, who totally goes for it.
  20. Two characters fight over where they’re each going to sit. It gets out of hand . fast.
  21. The next calm scene is interrupted by water: a flood, a leak, rain coming through the windows, an overflowing bathtub, a spilled teacup.
  22. Some part of your character’s life, something she has taken for granted all this time, turns out to be a message for her, in code.
  23. Someone from the character’s past shows up out of the blue, intent on revenge.
  24. No one’s ever eavesdropped quite like this before. Your character is forced to stay in a painful or precarious position to hear what he desperately needs to know.
  25. Some part of your cast now has to rely on an unusual (for them, at least) method of travel. A reindeer, or hot air balloon, or roller skates.
  26. Your characters are somehow forced to interrupt a funeral. One of the mourners provides them with unexpected wisdom.
  27. Your villain becomes obsessed with knock-knock jokes. Her alarmed second-in-command plots a coup.
  28. They unexpectedly find their dream house. And it changes everything.
  29. Just when they couldn’t slow down, your characters get caught in a local celebration, festival, or holiday.
  30. That terrible fear that your main character has been nursing, and having nightmares about. Yeah. If he doesn’t face it now, he’ll lose everything.
  31. An essential character steadily refuses to talk to your main character. For reasons that no one can understand. (Yet.)
  32. They come across a chair with magical or mythical properties. Does your character sit in it, or not?
  33. Whatever problem your characters are facing, they cure it with salt water: sweat, or tears, or the sea.
  34. Just when your characters thought they could relax, the roof falls in. (Or a tree limb drops. Or the tent collapses. Or the mine caves in.)
  35. To stave off certain doom, your character has to invent an elaborate story.
  36. A minor character falls in love with the worst sort of person for her, at the worst possible time.
  37. The next stage of your characters’ plans are thwarted by a massive insect attack. (Ew.)
  38. Whatever tool or skill or technology your characters were most relying on–it breaks. It stops working. It’s faulty. Now what?
  39. Something disagreeable surfaces in your protagonist’s bowl of soup.
  40. It turns out that all the old tales about this time of day, or this character, or this place, or this tradition, were true. And that is very bad news.
  41. Your characters knew that they were running out of time. New information cuts their remaining time in half. This forces your characters to rely on someone they know to be untrustworthy.
  42. If you haven’t killed off a minor character yet. do it. If you have killed one, try resurrecting him, one way or another.
  43. And then they find an old letter, with terrible implications for them, for what they’re about to do, and who they’re up against.
  44. Your characters (either the good guys or the bad guys) interrupt a play, concert, recital, movie, or sporting event, and demand help from the entire audience.
  45. Someone falls: through the flooring, through the ice, into quicksand, through the stairs. Wherever they are, the ground gives way.
  46. Something irresistible tempts your main character, but if she gives in now, she loses everything. How does she fight it?
  47. A barrier that everyone counted on–whether physical, mental, social, financial or emotional–gives way. In the chaos, what does your character do?
  48. Time for a natural disaster. Storm, flood, fire, earthquake, avalanche. Send your characters scrambling.
  49. To move forward, your main character must travel to a place to which he swore he’d never return.
  50. Your main character risks everything to save someone weaker than herself.

. Any of those give your story a boost?? I hope so! Just for fun, let me know which number restarted your draft.

When developing a plot twist and building up, your goal should always be geared towards the audience’s reaction. As an overall rule, remember that they’ve taken the time to invest themselves in your story. You want them to get some sort of satisfaction for that—so, while your plot twist should be surprising, and may even be shocking, it should not strongly disappoint an audience, or leave them feeling cheated, tricked, or manipulated by their emotional investment in the story.

When developing your plot twist, you should have one of these goals in mind:

  • To leave your audience saying “No way, I can’t believe it! I never saw that coming!”
  • To leave your audience saying “Oh yeah, totally—how didn’t I see that coming?”
  • To leave your audience saying “Wow, I knew it was possible, but never guessed it would really happen!”

Now, here are some tips for how to develop a successful and intriguing plot twist:

  • Think of all likely outcomes for the story…and then throw them out!
  • Develop obstacles that are seemingly impossible to overcome, and then think of a plausible solution that the audience won’t guess, but will understand and believe when it happens
  • For a big shock, make it seem like there is only one possible outcome to the story—and then use your twist to completely surprise the audience
  • For a surprising but less extreme twist, develop your story in a way that makes the audience totally unsure where it is going or what could happen, leaving it open to many possible outcomes.
  • For a clever and thought-provoking twist, use small clues throughout the story that the audience may forget or only take small note of, and then bring back those clues in the twist
  • You may choose to foreshadow your twist with either very subtle and hidden clues, or very noticeable and direct clues, depending on how close you want your audience to get to figuring it out.

When to Use a Plot Twist

As mentioned, plot twists are a commonly used narrative technique in all types of fiction. In fact, most stories will include at least some sort of plot twist, whether major or minor, foreshadowed or unpredictable. But, selecting the perfect moment to reveal your twist is key to a story’s success. If they occur too frequently or too early, they will lose their effect—so, if you’re going to include them in your story, you should do so sparingly and with careful placement.

Plot twists most typically occur towards the end of a story, just when the audience thinks they have everything figured out. Technically one can occur anytime, so long as there is enough material that can logically lead to it—authors need time to build up to a plot twist, so one couldn’t really work at the very beginning of a story. Building up to a twist lets audiences get to know the characters and understand their actions and intentions more and more as the plot progresses. Then, once an author has seemingly established a predictable storyline, they throw in a plot twist. The twist can completely change the audience’s understanding of previous events, or disprove assumptions that they made about where the story was headed.

Classic fairy tales make for great childhood reading. They’re a fun way to help kiddos build a moral foundation, in a simple and easily digestible manner. They illustrate social rules and behaviors without getting pedantic. And they show the reasons behind these rules through the mechanics of good storytelling.

So why mess with a classic? Reading the original version of The Three Little Pigs does a perfectly good job of teaching kids to be industrious, right? . . . Do you really need multiple versions?

Well, yes and no. Reading the classic version does do the original job of laying down a moral foundation. But reading modern twists get children thinking about the art of storytelling. Children build comprehension skills, as well as critical ones like comparing and contrasting. Plus, more contemporary versions help children explore new and unfamiliar topics using a familiar framework as a springboard.

Check out some of our favorite modern versions of the classic fairytale, The Three Little Pigs, and explore new subject areas like architecture, expose little ones to multiculturalism, or simply enjoy a great story!

The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale

By Steven Guarnaccia

In this hip and artsy retelling, Guarnaccia offers a kid-friendly introduction to modern architecture. Each of the little pigs is a famous 20th-century architect with a signature dream house. Frank Gehry lives in the house made of scraps. Philip Johnson’s house is all glass. And Frank Lloyd Wright? Well, his super sturdy Fallingwater houses are all three safely away from the ultra-cool wolf riding a Phillippe Starck Voxan GTV 1200.

The book is stylishly illustrated with each house cleverly decorated with designer interiors. Plus, the endpapers offer fun games for anyone interested in exploring the subject a bit further. An excellent book to introduce your little ones to architecture within a good old familiar story!

The Three Little Javelinas

By Susan Lowell

Close to the classic version but with a multicultural twist, The Three Little Javelinas is set in the desert with wild, little southwestern piggies, the javelinas, taking the lead.

So naturally, the first industrious little javelina builds his home out of tumbleweeds. The second one, out of saguaro cactus ribs. And the third? Why, out of adobe.

The big, bad wolf is none other than a coyote, the desert trickster common in Southwestern and Native American tales. The change of scenery puts a fun spin on an old favorite and exposes your little one to a new culture, environment, and animal. The text is fast-paced and the illustrations lively. A favorite for sure!

The Three Ninja Pigs

By Corey Rosen Schwartz

This fractured fairytale places the three little pigs in a Japanese ninja school. Frustrated by the devastation caused by the big, bad wolf’s repeated bullying and inappropriate huffing and puffing technique, the sibling piggies have had enough! So they start to train in martial arts, as any good piggy would.

The first takes aikido but he never gets passed a white belt. The second pig goes for jujitsu. Unfortunately his hog-sized level of confidence gets in the way of practice. The third pig? Well, she opts for karate and sticks with it until she’s mastered the perfect pork chop. Sayonara, Mr. Wolf! Practice does make perfect after all and luckily, Pig One and Pig Two have an opportunity for improvement.

Clever rhymes, a strong female character, action-packed illustrations, and butt-kicking martial arts . . . who could ask for more?

The Three Pigs

By David Weisner

This Caldecott-winning version begins just like any other: three little pigs with houses made of straw, sticks, and bricks. But when the wolf comes a-huffing and a-puffing, the story takes little ones on a cinematic adventure through a variety of classic children’s books.

Escaped from their own fairytale, the pigs change in color, shape, and style as they explore the other storybooks in the library. The cat and the fiddle join them, and so does a nearly-slain dragon.

Told entirely through illustrations, text excerpts, and a few speech bubbles, this is storytelling magic. In fact, it’s children’s metafiction at its finest!

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

By Jon Scieszka

There’s two sides to every story and this fractured fairy tale offers a fresh perspective on a tried a true classic. The wolf’s!

Hysterically funny, the story twists the traditional point of view with Alexander T. Wolf recounting his own incredible version of events: he was just trying to borrow some sugar. His allergies were acting up. Is it his fault the houses were of shabby construction? Would you just walk away from an irresistible ham dinner.

Kids will delight in the grown-up lesson in spin control (As if they need one! Think of the last time something precious was destroyed at home.) And the illustrations are top-notch. Cuddle up together and enjoy witnessing the fairytale world turned entirely on its head!

The Three Little Wolves and the Big, Bad Pig

By Eugene Trivizas

Here’s a wolf-friendly version of the classic tale. An aggressively mean swine is bullying a trio of sweet, fluffy wolves who have to keep building newer and better structures to keep out the boar. They start off with a sturdy brick abode and move on to more sophisticated buildings that resemble fortresses with surveillance cameras.

But the pig manages to destroy them all. But not by huffing and puffing – he uses sledgehammers, pneumatic drills, dynamite, and other demolition devices. Fortunately, the wolves stumble onto a solution to make peace.

If you can deal with the violent aspect (may not be suitable for the littlest ones) – and suppress your own riotous giggles, then this book offers a fun twist with role-reversals.

With the arrival of Valentine’s Day, it seems only appropriate to turn to the topic of love in fiction—where love always, always, always faces some sort of obstacle.

How to add a twist to a story

Just like love in the real world, I suppose.

And just like in the real world, a lie can send a relationship into a rapid downward spiral.

Communication and honesty are critical to our characters’ ability to find their way toward some sort of resolution, hopefully of the happily-ever-after variety for characters, readers, and writers alike—but along the way, a lie or three can create the plot twists and turns that bring a story to life. So read on, and please add your own literary lies in the comments!

How to add a twist to a story 1. The lie of identity. A lie brings two characters together who might not have met otherwise—but that same lie threatens to keep them apart. Think Cinderella or Never Been Kissed: Your character takes on a false identity and makes an unexpected connection. How will she pursue a relationship when she can’t be herself? What happens if the lie is revealed? In Cinderella, Prince Charming happily doesn’t care that Cinderella is a scullery maid; in Never Been Kissed, the protagonist’s actions not only deceived her love, but hurt him as well. (Photo: HarshLight, Flickr Creative Commons)

2. The lie of convenience. Two characters pretend love toward one another for an external purpose—for instance, to make an ex-boyfriend jealous. Their pseudo-relationship can make it a real relationship difficult or impossible, as in the film easy A. Or, if their feelings toward one another change, neither may be willing to make the first move.

3. The lie of obligation. Characters pretend love toward one another because they feel obligated for some reason, neither willing to reveal their true feelings for fear or hurting the other.

4. The overheard lie. This one is particularly damaging if one character lies about the other, perhaps to save face. In Fact of Life #31 (SPOILER ALERT!) Kat’s budding romance is nearly destroyed because she overhears her beau lie about their relationship.

5. The lie that isn’t. When one character thinks the other is lying—and plays along in order to reveal their deception—it can make for a fantastic comedy of errors. Jennifer Crusie, romance author extraordinaire, uses this technique to keep her main characters at odds with one another. Since she’s hopping between the male and female protagonists’ point of view, the reader gets to giggle at the increasingly absurd misunderstandings.

6. The lie that drags the other character down. Sometimes, a love story is complicated by the baggage—or lies—one character brings to the relationship. In Columbiana, the main character falls in love with an artist and the relationship nearly destroys her. Why? Because she happens to be engaged in a vendetta against the drug cartel that murdered her parents, and getting to close to anyone might lead her enemies to her doorstep. Or, worse, to her artist boyfriend.

7. The sociopath’s lie. The sociopath is an intriguing and disturbing character: someone who has no conscience will lie to manipulate another into a relationship. How will your protagonist discover the true nature of their “true love”? How will she free herself from the sociopath’s control? In James Patterson’s Now You See Her, the main character discovers that her seemingly-perfect husband isn’t the person she thinks he is, sparking a novel’s worth of unfolding drama.’

8. The unspoken lie. When one side makes an assumption and the other doesn’t correct it, as in While You Were Sleeping, it creates the sort of unspoken lie that can easily balloon out of control. I’ve seen this used in conjunction with amnesia: when the amnesiac awakens, not remembering who she is, everyone assumes that the man with her is her boyfriend—and he goes along with the assumption.

9. The self-directed lie. When a character lies to herself about love–tells herself that she doesn’t love someone when she does, or that she does love someone when she doesn’t—it can create a complex and engaging conflict. What hurt prompts a character to deceive herself? What does she fear? And what will get her to realize the truth?

10. The lie to please someone else. In Say Anything, Diane Court breaks off her relationship with Lloyd Dobler because he doesn’t meet her father’s approval—she lets him think she doesn’t love him in order to please her father. Who might stand in the way of your character’s relationship? Would she give up the chance at love for that person?

PS: If you enjoyed this post, you might appreciate last year’s Valentine’s Day post, Ten Ways to Embarrass Your Characters. It was inspired by my V-day birthday and the embarrassment of being called a “Valentine Baby” approximately 5032 times.

How to add a twist to a story

Have you ever despised the linear, flat story line you have going in your novel? If each scene outcome is predictable and you worry your reader will lose interest, then it is time for a change.

Maybe it’s time for an unexpected twist. Easier said than done, right? Still, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

Using a technique that I call fringe plotting, or Susan May Warren’s similar technique of peripheral plotting, you can easily bring in believable twists to mix things up.

What exactly is fringe plotting?

It is finding the details or story components on the edge of your current story line and drawing them into the plot in an unexpected way.

Take a look at this clip from Frozen:

What is the fringe plot detail in this clip? The camera man. He is the unexpected element that plays into the clip. It makes the other characters act completely different.

Who is on the fringe of the scene or story line you are working on? How will they make the characters act differently?

Now, notice the carrot. The carrot is an object on the fringe of the plot when Olaf is sitting on the moose’s back and he doesn’t want to move. It is unexpected that Olaf takes off his nose as incentive, but the nose was there all along waiting to be noticed.

What objects or incentives could there be in your character’s scene that are on the fringe going unnoticed?

In the clip from Frozen it seems so simple, but when we look at our stories it appears complicated sometimes. Break it down in the following way.

Describe these things as they relate to your scenes, characters, or story line:

*Friends, Family, Co-workers, Side Characters

*Events- Town Seasons, Holidays, Charities, Calendar

*Values – Things valued in the scene, lives, or backdrop of the story.

Once you identify these things, think of how they intersect with your character’s life and then you may find some of those carrot style twists you are looking for in your novel.