Plotting 4 Pantsers—Part III

We’re continuing our discussion of plot twists today. Turn your story on its head. By using the four basic elements of a stunning plot twist last week, let’s look at five different types of plot twists: identity, awareness, complexity, peril, & cleverness. Choose at least one then build a plot twist based on it. Plotting4Pantsers @donnalhsmith @a3writers TWEETABLE

Five types of plot twists: 1) Identity, 2) Awareness, 3) Complexity, 4) Peril, and 5) Cleverness


The protagonist (or your reader, or both) discovers she’s not who she thought she was. Maybe he’s insane, maybe she’s in someone else’s dream, maybe he’s a monster. This unearthing could be at the beginning of the story, or set it up for a redemptive ending, put it at the climax. That would create a dramatic plunge at the end.

What stories can you think of that has identity as a twist? Phillipe in The Man in the Iron Mask learns he’s the twin of the king of France. In Oedipus Rex, the young man finds he’s in love in with his own mother.


The world isn’t what they thought it was. They find they’re not on Earth, they’re somewhere else, on another planet. Maybe she thinks she’s arrived in heaven in the afterlife but discovers she’s really in hell.

Can you think of an example? How about “Planet of the Apes?” When Charlton Heston walks down the beach, he sees something in the distance. He walks toward it. This whole time, he thinks he’s on another planet…but what he discovers is that he’s really on Earth after all.


The heist, confidence game, or sting operation has a whole level of intrigue that wasn’t evident throughout the story. Maybe the hero knows something about the bad guys we don’t. Curiosity about how things will move forward drives readers to keep reading.

The best movie I know where this type of plot twist was used was “The Sting.” It was released not too long after “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Both movies starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford. As you probably know, Butch Cassidy and Sundance died at the end of that movie.

So, when I watched “The Sting,” and they were killed, I thought, “I can’t believe they did this again!” And then…they got UP!

Next week, we’ll conclude our study of the five types of plot twists. What’s your favorite plot twist? Was it from a book or movie? Leave a comment and let me know. Plot twists turn a story completely around, shocking & delighting the reader. Plotting4Pantsers @donnalhsmith @a3writers TWEETABLE

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