Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TWIST AT THE END: Tip For Writing Mind-Exploding Endings

Quick Update: Hmmm. So I never did finish that Reality Show series of blogs…hmm.

Song Stuck In My Head: “Ellen”, the Zac Efron/Taylor Swift duet in the style of “Pumped Up Kicks”. My ZacAttack crush is returning. Damn…you…DISNEY… CHANNELLLLLL….!

This post on twist endings couldn’t be more time-relevant. See, TV shows all have three types of “finales”. Series finale, the depressing end to a series that cuts all ties and ends all storylines. Season finale, or TV’s summer vacation. Usually the plots and subplots are resolved, but they’ll hint at what’s to come.

And then you got you these “winter finales”. Translation: Hi, viewers. We’re going to give you a huge Twist Ending and then play re-runs or give a midseason replacement a chance to shine. See ya in two months, suckers!

This year’s been good on them. How I Met Your Mother’s “not yet”. Glee’s car crash. Even American Idol has left me biting off my fingernails over Phillip Phillips’ fate. Okay, that last one isn’t a winter finale, but it still sucks, okay?

Either way, I had a semi-revelation-epiphany last week about twist endings, so I thought I’d share. After all, while most of us manage to have a unique storyline and some memorable characters, the one thing that won’t always come naturally is twist endings. And when you got one, you know it.

Sometimes they’d already been happening without us knowing, like Harry Potter’s Professor Quirrel being the baddie, not Snape. Maybe they reveal a secret about the main character that’s been building up - Sarah Rees Brennan’s “The Demon’s Lexicon” has a excellent example of this.

Or maybe they’re just an action that makes us drop the book. If anyone’s ever read the Morganville Vampires, in which every book ends with a twist ending it seems like, you know this action. I mean, in the first one alone one of the main characters gets STABBED, people. He comes back, but still. Intense.

Twist endings can be really difficult to pull off. It’s like in Inception, when they try to plant an idea without making it seem forced or coming from someone else. They try to make the idea feel as natural as possible. That’s the challenge for writers, especially those who write in a series - how do you foreshadow, reveal secrets and tidbits, try to clue readers in on the important true fax…without making it obvious?

Some stories are great, but predictable. My literature class is reading the Great Gatsby, for instance. The girl who sits next to me, a fellow bookworm, said she could already guess what happens by chapter two. And she did, more or less. She foreshadowed the romance. She foreshadowed the deaths (one of them, at least). It was sort of uncanny.

Whether you’re a fan of spoilers or not, a predictable book is never as fun as a twist ending. After all, those are the ones you remember. The ones that make you look back and say, “EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD MAKES TOTAL SENSE NOW! THANK YOU MAGICAL AUTHOR! THANKYOUUUU!”. That.

My main issue has of course been that I don’t truly know what my twist ending was (is? Will be? Whatever) after changing the storyline so many times over the past few months. Thus, I didn’t know what to hint, what to add. After all, I didn’t know what it led to. So I randomly tried something last week.

I wrote my antagonist’s make-believe “tell-all” scene.

You know in the movies, that corny scene at the end when the villain gets just a tad cocky and says something along the lines of, “Well, since I’m about to finish you off anyways, let me tell you exactly how we got to this point, exactly how I conquered you, usually giving you enough time to fight/escape/snidely remark back?” Well, if you’re having trouble making your story twist and shout, here’s an idea…write your own tell-all scene.

That’s right.

Be corny if you wish, but basically have your villain/antagonist tell your hero/protag all the clues he/she should have seen, what led up to the bad ending. Have him/her go over every diabolical detail. Have him laugh evilly over your hero’s mistakes.

Will you include this scene in your actual WIP? No, probably not.

Will you have an idea of what clues, mistakes, hints, etc. to add throughout your WIP like seasoning? You should. Bonus: you’ll get to flesh out your villain a little bit too, including his motives. Your antagonist does have motives, doesn’t he?

This is just my new way though. So far, I’ve been feeling more confident.

But how about you guys - how have you handled twist endings? What’s the most memorable twist ending you could remember? (Not just books…any twist ending!)

And to end such a dramatically long post...



  1. Can I just say, I love this idea? I more or less know what my villain's endgame is, but to spell it out in the corny 'mwah ha ha this is how I got you' kind of way is genius. Will definitely be doing this as an exercise to understand him better (but won't be adding it in). Thanks for sharing! :)

  2. Fantastic! I'm definitely going to try this. I LOVE twist endings that don't require you to piece too much together (hence I'm easily surprised). I like the piecing AFTER the big reveal. The Sixth Sense was the best, my favorite, etc. of all time.
    It's not mysterious because you're so distracted by the ghosts, etc. Then DUDE!!!!!

  3. Absolutely brilliant idea! Will have to give it a shot...

  4. Thanks for reading peeps! I'm so glad to hear this helps a bit.

    @Jaime Morrow. See, I knew wasn't the only one in that situation! Knowing the ending, not knowing the middle...

    @sarawedgbrow I've actually never seen the Sixth Sense, but not by choice. Get what you mean though. There's a couple action movies/fantasy movies that come to mind.

    @J Friday thanks so much!!!

  5. Twist endings make me happy. For me, the absolute queens of twist endings are Agatha Christie and Megan Whalen Turner.

    "And Then There Were None" and "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd"? WOW! Maybe they're not as crazy today, but at the time (and when I was in high school), they were blow-your-mind phenomenal.

    And don't even get me started on MWT's Queen's Thief series. Amaaaaaaazing!

  6. Really really awesome post... I am in the A-Z challenge and you are a blog I'm to follow during this challenge and I have to tell you I'm really really impressed.. I love your writing and your idea's..