Disclaimer: This is a new question, not an extension of my other questions concerning twists.

When I develop fiction, I start with a premise and a theme. I have a general idea of where I'm headed, and the events that get me there. I add in character and stakes, which help flesh out the story until I have a fairly detailed outline of the book. And then I arrive at the plot, and the twists/complications.

Unless I plan on it from the beginning, my plots at this point have no twists in them, and very few complications, none of which are intentional. And of course since the events are already detailed and sorted, inserting a twist - which turns the plot in a different direction - will mean I will have to completely redo most of the events (I generally know what the climax and resolution will be already). And if I want more than one twist, I will have to redo them several times. I would prefer to be able to have twists without rewriting the outline several times.

The obvious answer to this problem would seem to be to incorporate twists first, before any other development. The problem is that the other development is what makes most of the story - the thing that gets twisted, in other words. Hence my question:

At what point during development do I add in twists/complications? And how can I do so when I already know how I want things to end?

Note: This question is based on my understanding of a twist as something unexpected, which affects the current situation and may change the outcome, possibly of the entire story.

2 Answers 2


Try plotting backwards.

The writers of House, MD often worked this way. They figured out some esoteric disease or ailment (or perhaps something not so esoteric but easy to confuse with other problems) and then worked backwards to lay red herrings and misdirection.

So you have the ending you want (heroine gets macguffin). Work backwards from there. Each branch point offers you some places to put twists and complications.

  • How does she get into the building with the macguffin?
  • How does she reach the building?
  • How does she find which building it's in to begin with?
  • How does she know it's in a building? (As opposed to a ship, a temple, a bank, a house, on the road, etc.)
  • Who told her about the macguffin?
  • How did the macguffin get lost?
  • Why is the macguffin important?

You get the idea. You may have to rough out your (non-complicated) plot forwards first to figure out where the branch parts are backwards, but it's a lot easier to put in a misdirection when you've already gotten to the ending.

  • Thanks for the advice, Lauren. I don't think working backwards or out of order is for me, simply because it's difficult for me to write like that and keep everything straight, but still great advice! Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 17:43
  • 1
    I like this answer. I think it has some solid advice and reading it helped generate some creativity. Thanks.
    – raddevus
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 21:18

Here are some possibilities:

  • As you play around with the premise and the theme before mapping out the story, look for twists in the premise and the theme.
  • As you consider endings, look for twist endings.
  • As you map out the events that lead to the ending, look for ways to make your chosen ending a twist. That is, think of events that will lead the reader to expect a different ending.
  • Look for twists at any time, and be willing to let go of your plan.

Here's another way, which sounds like it may not fit for you. But it works for me, so I'll offer it:

  • Start writing before you know the story. At any interesting moment (starting a new chapter, introducing a new character, ...), look for characters or events or revelations that confound and twist the story you've written so far.

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