I love a good page turner. There are few things more satisfying to me then starting a book and not physically being able to put it down. So much so that you look up from said book only to realize that you’ve been in your pajamas all day, and now it’s nighttime.
Such was the wonderful case when I read Jessie Rosen’s Dead Ringer — a YA novel that is chock-full of secrets, and has one of the most amazing plot twists I’ve ever read. Seriously, this plot twist will make you scream. I was yelling at this book. I didn’t know I was capable of that.
Which is why I asked Jessie for advice on how to write a great plot twist. Not only because I aspire to be a writer like Jessie someday, but because I wanted a look inside the mind of someone who came up with this plot twist. Jessie, in turn, wrote all about it for today’s guest post. Her advice is, as always, on point and full of unexpected turns! Buy Dead Ringer here so we can discuss this plot twist together, please.
How To Write An Amazing Plot Twist, by Jessie Rosen
There is little I love more than a gasp-inducing, throw-the-book-across-the-room, shout a four-letter-word plot twist. BRUCE WILLIS IS ALSO DEAD?! SHE’S HER SISTER AND HER DAUGHTER?! HANS WAS EVIL ALL ALONG??!!
But loving them and writing one are two very different things. And yet, when conceiving of the idea behind my first YA novel, DEAD RINGER, plot twist was the whole point. I (like to) think I pulled it off (Erin thought so!). Here are my tips for twisting a plot so hard it makes your reader’s heads spin.
The twist wasn’t an after thought for DEAD RINGER; it was the entire pitch. I started with, imagine if __________?!?! And then I spent at least a month thinking, nope, too ridiculous. Coming up with a way for it to not be complete and utter insanity was my job. It can be tricky to reverse engineer a twist into an existing world. I recommend twisting first and straightening second. Also good advice when dancing.
Again, work backwards. If you know when and how you’d like to spill the story’s biggest beans you can figure out how much meat you need before and after that moment. I wanted a very late shock ala GIRL ON A TRAIN, but a book like GONE GIRL features a mid-point reveal which is equally excellent. Pick the “Girl” you prefer, but know before you go.
Herrings, plural. When developing characters to fill out your world you need to consider who we’ll think is involved in the mystery and why. I have one sort of red herring and one real red herring (and as much pickled herring as possible, always). A lot of plot came from that fact and needed to be carefully woven.
You’re keeping a big, big secret, but every detail still has to make sense when the reader finds out what’s been up all along. It’s so fun to play with dialogue, language and description that dances that like (watch THE SIXTH SENSE for a master class), but do not step over!
In DEAD RINGER I reveal the twist to the audience in once scene but to a character in another. Double bang for my buck! Both of those moments were my absolute favorites to write and, shockingly, came the easiest. What does this say about my mental state? Let’s not dwell on that.
Getting it right is about feeling what works and doesn’t from your own reader’s ear. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat (please forgive the aggressive cat-related saying, Erin), but this is your big Hitchcock moment, so you get to make it your own.
Good luck! God speed! Coffee helps! Can’t wait to read it.