There are some storytelling elements that you know about but don’t think much about until someone mentions them. That was the case with twist endings for me this weekend.
Twist endings have a special place in my heart. It’s the reason I love O. Henry’s stories (the one in “The Last Leaf” is so beautiful that it makes me cry every time) and The Twilight Zone. But in spite of how much I picked literature and the art of writing apart over the years, I never really considered what makes a twist ending work (or not).
This video made it all clear, though. It’s definitely worth watching, if you’re interested in really picking it apart.
It all boils down to this, though: twist endings work best if the tells are in plain sight and the reader discovers the twist when the protagonist does. When all of the pieces are sitting out in the open to be discovered on a rewatch, it work well. If it comes out of nowhere, it can fall very flat.
Considering that I do plan to have a twist (near the end) in the steampunk/fantasy novel I’ve been working on, the timing of this couldn’t be more perfect. Now to make sure that I do reveal just enough in just the right way so I don’t blow it.
What are your favorite stories with twist endings? Do you write twist endings in your own works?