Plotting 4 Pantsers—Part II

Last week, we talked about making promises to readers. Today, I’m going to talk about plot twists. Four elements must be present in any plot twist you write: inevitable, surprising, escalation, & expectation. #Plotting4Pantsers @donnalhsmith @a3writers TWEETABLE

Plot Twists

James says there are four elements to all plot twists, and in our writing, we should include them all: 1) unexpected, 2) inevitable, 3) an escalation of what preceded it, and 4) a revelation that adds meaning to what has already occurred. Pg. 132


Only one possible conclusion to the plot twist. It’s believable to readers, and when they get to it, they see that everything in the story up until then has been pointing toward that ending, rather than the one they were predicting and anticipating. Great twists are more than just believable; they are, in retrospect, the only possible ending to that scene, act, or story.


The readers cannot see it coming—but it ends up not only being reasonable but more logical than any other possible ending. It must be free of gimmicks, and it must both shock and delight the reader. If you’re like me, you want to figure out where the story is going before you read it.

A twist doesn’t just move the story forward; it unravels it and then rethreads it at the same time, giving more meaning to it. Readers find out that the story is deeper, richer, and more multilayered than they ever imagined.


To set up a stunning plot twist, you must construct it in such a way to have the twist be the ultimate ending to the stair stepping. Like a brick wall, the twist needs to be built, brick-by-brick. Foreshadow it by alluding to your ending. Use red herring techniques and have the twist ending be one of those possible solutions. Use your elements of surprise. Make sure the reader doesn’t guess it ahead of time.


Turn expectations on their head. At first you’ll play to those expectations, so readers will think they know where things are going. Then, suddenly, you’ll turn those expectations against them to create the twist.”

The main plot twist of my book, Meghan’s Choice, had to do with blackmail. Meghan is blackmailed by the doctor before he’ll treat the cowboy for a gunshot wound. It won’t spoil the story for you to know that. Ah, but how does she get out of it? That, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

What are some of your favorite plot twists you’ve either seen in a movie or read in a book? Leave a comment and let me know. #Plotting4Pantsers @donnalhsmith @a3writers TWEETABLE

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