Before I begin I just want to say that this is only the second part of the post series in case you didn’t notice from the title. Part 1 is available here, please take a look at that first.
And the same SPOILER ALERT FOR THE SIXTH SENSE applies here as well!
While Part 1 of this series was about how to set up an excellent plot twist, this post is going to focus on how to do it properly to deliver the maximum effect. Going back to the example I used in Part 1, the Sixth Sense, not only did M. Night Shyamalan set it up perfectly, but the way he constructed the entire story around the plot twist is what worked to make it amazing.
Which leads me to the last two points of constructing an excellent plot twist:
Now, a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that the plot twist only happens at the end. That it’s some massive reveal where the, “Oh my God!”, moment happens in that one and only scene.
That’s just wrong. You see, this is what the foreshadowing is for. While yes, you did need the foreshadowing at the beginning of the story, you need to then execute the plot according to the foreshadowing.
Think of it as, making sure your foreshadowing grows with the scope of the story.
If you remember, I said that one of the biggest contributors to the impact of a twist ending is that moment where you realize that this is the answer to all those odd moments that could have meant everything or nothing correct?
Well this makes sure those questions develop. This is making sure the foreshadowing doesn’t go away, and in fact becomes even more prevalent in the story. We don’t want the plot twist to just remind us of those moments, but you want the plot twist to answer questions raised by those moments of foreshadowing.
In the Sixth Sense there’s so many examples of Bruce Willis’ wife talking to him in very odd ways. So odd in a way that it’s almost like he’s not there or, if he is, she certainly doesn’t know it.
Here’s a few examples of the questions that could be raised:
- Is there marriage really THAT dysfunctional?
- Is this woman really that frigid?
- Is Bruce Willis’ character really THAT bad of a husband?
- What the hell is going on here?
The list goes on and on. The great thing about this is that you’re letting the audiences imagination run wild. What does this do? It gets them engaged, it keeps them guessing, and most of all, they start telling themselves a totally different story based on your writing. As the movie progresses they’re going to not only want answers to those questions, but they’re going to be totally invested in seeing whether or not the story ends like they think it will.
This is a very delicate and often times frustrating part of writing a story in this sense. You see, this is where you have to make sure the plot twist you write answers every single one of those questions that have been raised and addresses every single piece of foreshadowing you placed.
This needs to be done for two reasons. For the people who have invested time in playing amateur detective during the course of your story, they’re going to want to feel satisfied with the conclusion. The other reason is that if you don’t, people will possibly be frustrated by unintentional red herrings and other things they consider a plot hole.
This is very important, you have to make sure all of these things line up perfectly. If they don’t, and you’re dead set on that twist ending, you need to go back and adjust the rest of the story to make it all fit.
Like I’ve said before, plot twists need to be clean, precise and well thought out. Follow this approach, and you won’t have any trouble.
Now it’s time for a small disclaimer here. There’s totally a chance that people will see the twist ending coming in this case. And while that seems terrible, it’s really not if you look at it the proper way.
You see, this approach shows a serious dedication to the craft. It shows your skill and talent. Chances are this approach will not only add to rewatchability (is that even a word?), but it will leave them saying, “Man this guy’s good.”
Both of these things you definitely want!
And as for the small few that will see it coming and immediately call foul, oh well. You can’t please everyone anyways, and you might as well take the approach that pays off the most for you.
As usual I’m curious as to what you think. Agree? Disagree? Think I’m nuts? Whatever you do think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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