Hiding the Twists in Your Plot
I'm ashamed to say that the last time I posted on my blog was July. Where has the time gone? So much has happened in my life since then. My oldest son moved away from home to start university in British Columbia. We also put our house in Curacao on the market. What a nerve-wracking process that has been!
I’ve also redesigned my website. I took a branding course in August, and I love that the new look of my site reflects who I want to be as an author. The new design also gives me a chance to include some of my favorite Instagram photos!
Most importantly, I’ve written a new YA Contemporary novel. I started it in the fall and finished it during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This was my fifth year participating in NaNoWriMo, and it was my most successful year. I was able to write 60,000 words during the first three weeks of November! This was at least partially because I was so excited about this story.
It’s set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and includes some magical realism elements. One of the trickiest aspects was figuring out how to write the story without giving away the major twist at the end. Like the twists in the road in my picture from Zion National Park, sometimes the reader can predict the direction of your plot, no matter how much you think you're pulling the wool over their eyes. I was talking to my daughter about this dilemma, and she had some great advice. She told me to pull “A Walking Dead”. **SPOILER ALERT for any Walking Dead fans** She recommended that I come up with another secret or twist to be revealed first (i.e., Abraham’s death). Then, when the reader believes that they know the twist, you hit them with the real stunner (i.e., the loss of our beloved Glenn).
This advice turned out to be a real game changer for me. Anytime I write a story with secrets, I have a hard time not dropping hints. They tend to creep in, no matter how much I try to avoid it.
So this time, I took my daughter’s advice. I came up with an intermediary twist/secret. I then put the final twist completely out of my head. I wouldn’t allow myself to even think about it. So the hints that are dropped are all about that first secret. I know the final twist will take the reader completely by surprise. Can’t wait for feedback from my agent. She doesn’t even know the final twist yet!
So that’s my advice on how to stun your readers with a surprise ending. I’d love to hear from other writers. How do you deal with secrets in your books?