Context: In my question How did Olaf know?, I asked about a twist in the TV series A Series of Unfortunate Events, adapted from a book series of the same name.

My understanding: Twists, whether good (for protagonist/s) ones like deus ex machina or bad (for protagonist/s) ones, are bad (in writing) if they could not have been seen as plausible with prior information (In case relevant, do not assume the converse is true). Examples would be twists that involve violation's of Knox's 10 Commandments or twists that are 'insulting to the reader' from the Family Guy episode 'Three Kings', based on Stephen King's works.*

(*) Here, Stewie presents examples of twists that are bad (in writing) and good (for protagonist/s).

Stewie: No, no, no! This won't do, Paul. You can't just have Snuggly Jeff magically brought back to life by a child's wish. It's insulting to the reader!

Paul: What do you mean?

Stewie: Well, it's just bad story telling. Let's see ... How can I explain this to you? Did you ever see the movie Contact?

Paul: Yeah.

Stewie: So, like, they spent a trillion dollars building this mile high space machine and Jake Busey blows it up. So, now they're all like: "Oh, no. We can't use the space machine,” but then this other guy's like: "Hey, it just so happens, I built another identical trillion dollar space machine at my own expense, on the other side of the world." And we're supposed to believe no one noticed that? Well, I stood up in the theatre and I said: "No! You can't go into space because the machine already got blown up by Jake Cock-a-Doody Busey!" [throws papers in trash] Start over

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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
    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
    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. 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. Apr 26, 2018 at 18:06
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    I should add that I am itching to write an answer for this question. Apr 26, 2018 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


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.

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