Morning writers! I hope you are well.
One feeling I’ve had since I started planning my novel, and one that’s certainly intensified as I write and re-write, is worry. I am writing a murder mystery, and keeping the killers identity a secret until the end is pretty hard to do. It’s not hard to leave the reveal to the end, but it is hard trying to make sure the twist isn’t too obvious.
I’m sure plenty of you can resonate here. Don’t you hate it when you read a story that promises a shock twist, only to find out it’s what you’d been expecting all along? With these worries in mind, I’d like to share some tips and thoughts on the matter.
1. Remember, it’s obvious to you
I have no idea if my plot twists are obvious. So far, I am the only person who has read my story, who even knows anything about it. And, most crucially, I know what happens. When you’re the writer, it can be easy to assume that your twists are too obvious, but remember, of course it’s obvious to you! You know what happens, you know what to look out for! Just because it’s obvious to you, doesn’t mean it will be to any future readers.
2. Don’t make it so unobvious, it’s obvious
If, like me, you’re writing a story that has a bit of a “who done it?” scenario, there are some surefire ways to make the big reveal obvious. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to make the culprit so unobvious that you blend them into the background and never allow them to even be considered as a suspect. Doing this can lead readers to assume that your character is so unobvious that they must’ve done it.
3. Don’t make your twist too random or unrealistic
I have read a couple of books in the past where I’m certain the author just wanted to create an impact with the element of surprise. However, the twist was so random or out of the blue that, for me, it ruined the story. If the only way you can think to incorporate a plot twist is to introduce something that has no relevance, and no build up, then you could end up disappointing some readers.
4. Keep the readers guessing
In the case of a murder mystery it can be a great idea to keep the reader guessing. This way, even if they suspect the culprit early on, they’ll constantly second guess themselves, keeping the read enjoyable. My example of this is The Girl on the Train. I guessed, pretty early on, who Megan’s killer was. But the book was so well written, that I kept second guessing myself, so when the reveal came I was still impressed.
5. Use red herrings and suspects to your advantage
Red herrings, the art of misleading! Take any opportunity to make a character seem guilty, especially in small subtle ways. You’ll keep the reader on their toes, as they are constantly introduced to new possibilities. The same goes for suspects. Just when it seems that someone is in the clear find ways to make them look guilty again.
6. Get feedback from beta readers
We discussed above that of course, your novel’s twist is obvious to you as the writer. Getting beta readers, or trusted friends and family, to read your book and offer feedback will be really helpful. I am looking forward to doing this myself. Ask them to keep note of anyone/anything they suspect, and also to note where/when in the book they change their mind. You’ll soon see if people are figuring out the truth too soon, or if your well kept secret has remained under wraps.
7. Be okay with people guessing
We must accept that there will always be people who figure it out. Everyone reads and takes in stories differently, and so it’s inevitable that some people will predict the twist or ending. There will be books you’ve read and figured out that other people simply couldn’t predict, and books that some people say were obvious but totally surprised you. Learn to be okay if some people make accurate guesses.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with this fear of being obvious. Still, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please comment below!