I’ve been working with some people (Shannon Lawrence, Veronica Calisto, Pete Aldin, and Melissa Locy) to put together a panel on plot twists for Denver ComicCon, at the end of June.

My line in the sand:  if it’s gonna be an epic, major, unforgettable plot twist…you have to give the reader a key to it in the opening of the story.  Do not spoil it.  But do not hoard the information, either.

Some examples.

And Then There Were None has a clue in the rhyme and [cough] in the names of the characters.  Murder on the Orient Express has one character point something out as usual to Poirot as he gets on the train, which the book then proceeds to overturn but pass off as “coincidence.”  Fingersmith starts out with a clue in the first line.  The Maltese Falcon tells us that Spade is devilish and Wonderly is all curves…except for her white teeth and red lips.  Gene Wolfe’s Peace starts out with a man awakening from a sudden dream…and dropping a single phrase that gives away the whole book.  The opening of Gone Girl tells us who’s responsible for the events that follow, and even that the guy knows that he should have known what happened all along.  The opening of Shutter Island  tell us to question our sanity and that, oh, by the way, this is all about a mental hospital.  My Sister’s Keeper tells us the ending of the book in the first scene.  The beginning of Life of Pi (the author’s note) is all about how a book about 1939 Portugal can be nothing about 1939 Portugal, and the word bamboozle.  

The examples go on and on…yet you usually can’t see what the twist is ahead of time anyway.  You know that some sort of twisty hijinx will ensue.  Something is not quite right here.  But you don’t know what.

You hear about this kind of thing, as a writer.  But it’s not until you really roll in the stink of it do you understand that it is true, true, true…

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