My understanding is that plot twists, whether they're in the protagonist's favour or not, are bad writing if they could not have been seen as plausible with prior information (in case this is relevant, do not assume the opposite is true). An example would be the film Contact, where the transport machine is destroyed, only for it to be revealed that they secretly built a second one in Japan. Other examples of this would be twists that involve violations of Knox's 10 Commandments.

Is there a name for plot twists such as these, that are based on information not made available to the audience?

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    TV Tropes has an entry for "Ass Pull" derived from the idiom "pull (something) out of (one's) ass" – vulgar slang meaning to completely fabricate or invent something; to draw something from little or no real evidence, facts, information, etc. tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AssPull
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 11:33
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    correct. Any idiom could work, and others might be more specific in context (as to randomness, or improbability, or laziness of the writer, etc). I'd also quibble with your use of "twist" in this case seems more like a "reveal", where a "twist" should make sense in that it alters the context (but not the facts) of everything that has come before. A "twist" superimposes two plots with the same events so a protagonist believes they are in one kind of story then discover they are in another after the twist. Looking back both stories have to be consistent with events.
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 12:52
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    The huge amount of off-topic context aside, I feel that the central question "what is this called" is a valid question. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 18:20
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    I'm no expert on the will of moderation but as I see things the objection seems to be that you question "looks" like it is about literary works when (as I see it) the core question is about what a thing is called. You could try a slimmer question and submit for reopening. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 18:06
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    I should add that I am itching to write an answer for this question. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


This is called Deus Ex Machina (lit. God From the Machine) and generally occurs when the mechanism for solving the conflict is not hinted at in the story at any point prior to the result.

From your example in Contact, the second Machine in Japan is not this, as there are hints that something is going on with the Japanese government (Considering that this film was based on a 1985 novel of the same name, and Japan was a dominating force in tech at this time and a rising economic powerhouse, the fact that they withdrew consideration of sending a Japanese citizen for first contact would have been a little sus. In the film, this hint is slipped into a news montage sequence. Hiding your Chekov's Gun will keep the reveal from being Deus Ex Machina).

It also does not violate the Knox's 10 commandments firstly because Knox's commandments do not apply to this genre, which is Scifi, but instead apply to mystery and detective genre's. Even if it did apply, the most obvious violation is #10, which holds that Twins or Doubles should not be introduced unless prepared for because there was some mention that Japan was acting in an unusual manner.

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    While a good answer, it should be noted this is not exactly what the OP was asking. This is only Deus Ex Machina long as the "twist" in question is the resolution of the main conflict.
    – jtb
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 16:06

I call this a "reverse Chekov's Gun violation".

The playwright Anton Chekov is often quoted as saying:

If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.

The maxim is called "Checkov's gun". When a story has an element introduced early on that never becomes important later, I call that a "Chekov's Gun violation".

If a story has an element that is very important at the end and that element was not introduced earlier, I call it a "reverse Chekov's Gun violation".

As far as I know, I'm the only person who uses those phrases in that way, so perhaps this answer doesn't help you. But I strongly think these are good phrases to use for the situations in which I use them, so maybe this answer will be useful to others.


TV Tropes calls this an Ass pull. Not very sophisticated, but hard to argue with. From their description:

A truly great Plot Twist is one of the hardest things to pull off in fiction writing. Optimally, the writer will want to reveal the twist in a way where as much as the audience as possible is caught off-guard by it, but also make it a satisfying experience for any audience members who decide to go through the story again to be able to see the subtle hints towards the twist, and realize that the twist was an integral part of the story from the beginning and the writer really was building up to it all along. This page, however, is all about when that fails to happen, for whatever reason.

An Ass Pull is a moment when the writers pull a narrative development out of thin air in a less-than-graceful fashion. This development violates the Law of Conservation of Detail by dropping a plot-critical detail without Foreshadowing or dropping a Chekhov's Gun earlier on.

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