Bungee jumping, sky diving, secret mission, Indy 500: how do these events compare to the art of fiction writing? Each one brings to its ‘doer’ an element of anticipation, exhilaration, unfamiliarity, and adventure. A pure adrenaline rush. And as a writer of fiction, this is the plateau you want your reader to experience.
Straying from the anticipated ending to a twist makes for good reading, pleasing the editor, and upping your chance of getting accepted. But be wary. Your twist should conform along the lines of the story you have crafted thus far. Not an easy task to accomplish, but plausible.
For example: fifteen-year-old John stole the answers to his exam from his teacher’s desk. Throughout the storyline, John has been portrayed as a ‘bully’ but every so often the writer has offered either flashbacks or little inconspicuous hints into John’s childhood. The reader assumes that John will either get away with it, or get caught and suspended. The author has gripped the reader into continuing the book to see where this will end up. Here comes the twist.
Because of these rare flashback insights, we’ve seen another side to John that, although subtle, it’s still there. So when John ends up placing the answers back with no one being the wiser, the reader is stunned, surprised, but content with this twist ending because it has been subliminally build into the plot.
If the writer’s portrayal of John had been exclusively ‘bullish’, mean-spirited, unfriendly throughout then the reader’s reaction would have been stunned, surprised and obviously, left cheated with an ending that holds no basis with the rest of the storyline.
This is called character reversal, when the character reacts different than what the reader expected. And to pull it off, you must have planted subtle seeds along the way.
Does this affect your plot down the line? In certain circumstances, yes. For example:
Bruce is a studious clean-cut senior high school student. He’s portrayed as the ‘geek’ for most of the story, not a main character at all. Then the writer decides to spruce things up and throws a dare at Bruce. Bruce accepts. He takes his friend’s ID and goes to a ‘Rave’. Big mistake, but a twist for the reader. The ‘Rave’ is raided, Bruce ends up in jail because his friend is wanted by the police and he’s holding the fake id. He escapes and now tries to clear his name that somehow has crept into the police files. A sedate YA high school book has now turned into a suspense novel all because of a character reversal.
When writing up your character(s) sketch, try to include opposite reactions, as well. By doing this, you can easily plot foreshadowing more convincingly ahead of the game.
Remember that fiction is often, if not all the time, crafted out of real people, real situations or real events. So think of a ‘real’ person and envision his reaction to several possible finales to a ‘dilemma’. Then start crafting the ending with one of these ‘reactions’ while dropping subtle hints to a totally different ending than what your reader is expecting. Try to use this character reversal for a completely out of this world ‘awesome ending.’
Make sure your story propels forward, making your reader want to turn the page. Bungee jump them out of a plane into a secret path that will drive them to the finish line.