by David Freeman

Structure Twists mean surprising the reader with the way some basic plot structures are used.

Let’s look at a few plot twists in the context of a hypothetical, contemporary war story.

A Revelation Changes Everything

You and your squad have been making it across hostile terrain toward the enemy’s stronghold. You’ve been getting orders from your higher-ups over a radio carried by one of you men.

And then comes the revelation: You learn that your radio is bugged. Your enemy knows where you are and everything you’ve been planning.

Innocent People Are in the Way

The enemy has put his compound in the middle of a densely populated area. If you shell it, you’ll kill many innocent people.

A Key Piece of Equipment Breaks Down

You’re making a final assault on the enemy’s fortified compound. The rocket-grenade launcher, your main and only sure way of destroying the ramparts, breaks.

A Character Changes Sides

Continuing the preceding story… You turn around, and there’s the enemy’s right-hand man. Blam!

As he dies, he confesses he had deserted the enemy and was changing sides. He tells you there’s a lightly guarded, secret back entrance to the compound. He’s about to tell you exactly where it is, but he dies.

You Fall into a Trap

You find that entrance and storm it – but your enemy’s men are inside, waiting. It was all a trap.

A Hostage is Taken

No sooner are you inside the walls of the enemy fortress when your best buddy is captured. Do you go to rescue him, or do you go after your enemy?

Forced to Carry Out Another’s Agenda

The enemy’s henchman has got you in his sniper scope, and you’re in an open area with no place to duck for cover. The way you discover you’re doomed is that he’s tapped into an ear microphone you’ve been using as part of a communications system, and he taunts you.

The henchman says he’ll kill both you and your buddy (the one taken hostage earlier, who’s still their prisoner) unless you tell your men to leave – that you’ll take it alone from here.

So, to save your and your buddy’s life, you dismiss your very confused men. You’ve been forced to carry out another’s agenda.


A Mini-Goal is a goal you need to accomplish first before proceeding to the main goal.

Let’s say that there’s an enemy soldier up in a guard tower, picking off your men. Before you charge the enemy’s HQ, you’ve got to take out that soldier one way or another. This becomes a mini-goal.

Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire

The solution to one problem gets you into an even worse problem. For example:

* The enemy has a futuristic catapult that it was using to bombard you when you were outside the walls. You break inside, but can’t get to the center of the compound because it’s too heavily guarded. You get an idea: Have your men catapult you. You’ll use your parachute as a break to slow down your descent. It seems like a great solution – but when you do this –

* You land in the wrong place – right in the middle of a munitions storage area. Enemy troops are swarming you. The solution is to use your flame thrower to start a cascade of explosions –

* You start the explosions, which destroy the troops, but they ignite a fire that rapidly spreads your way. You run out of the munitions area – into some worse problem.[/list]

And so on.


Man Cannot Live by Twists Alone

Some apprentice writers think that plot twists are themselves enough to make a story interesting.

But a story that has no emotional content is rarely interesting, no matter how many twists are involved. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filled with action and twists, but at times seemed strangely empty and slow, even when the pacing was at its peak. The lack of emotional content meant that, even amidst the heavy action and jeopardy, it was sometimes hard to care about the twists or the danger.

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camidon's picture

Writing Twists

Lots of plot twisting examples there. The ultimate goal with twists is to create something that no one has done before, which of course is very difficult.

I agreed completely with this: "Some think plot twists are enough to make a story interesting." Without a least one character a reader believes or connects in some way, there's no point to a plot twist.



Life is a lot like caving: Most of the time you grope around in the dark.

re: Writing Twists

Glad you liked the article.

Every kind of story has been done in one form or another. Within certain categories, like Trek, mystery, romance, certain devices and conventions are expected. What a writer has to do is tell a compelling story rather than something "original." Characters are what compel people to follow a story from beginning to end, not plot, stylish sentences, bestseller ideas, etc.

The surprise comes from seeing a character do something that stems from the emotional makeup given to him by the writer.


"Fiction is a lie. Good fiction is the truth in a lie."
-Stephen King

"Compelling characters and writing transcend category."
-Boris Layupan

"You must kill your darlings."
-William Faulkner