Does Your Story Need a Plot Twist to be Memorable?

Does Your Story Need a Plot Twist to be Memorable - cozycreativewriting.wordpress.com

Warning, this blog post contains heavy spoilers for the following:

  • Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  • The Sixth Sense

If spoilers bother you, don’t worry, they will be marked so that you can skip them, if you want to.

Onto the blog post!

Does a story need a plot twist to be memorable? It’s a question I’ve been considering. My first instinct was to say, “No, of course not! There are plenty of memorable stories that don’t have plot twists.”

But after giving it more thought, I’m not so sure.


What’s a Plot Twist?

Wikipedia defines a plot twist as such:

A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending.

But I don’t agree with this definition.

You see, when I was learning about the major story milestones, I was taught that the midpoint should have some sort of plot twist. A context shifting plot twist, to be specific.

And so I would define a plot twist as:

A literary technique that introduces information to the viewer, which causes a change or shift in the direction of the plot.

With that definition I realized that, yes, a story does need a plot twist to be memorable.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “But Rebekah, not every story has a plot twist in the middle of it. If it did, everyone would expect it, and it would become a cliche!”

That’s because many people think of plot twists in a dramatic way.

There are 2 main types of plot twists, the 2 Things = 1 Thing and the Change of Context. Let’s take a closer look at both kinds.

2 Things = 1 Thing

This is what most people think of when they think of a plot twist.

<Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Spoiler>

One of the most famous and popular examples of this kind of plot twist is in the Star Wars series.

In the movies, Luke Skywalker begins by believing that his father and Darth Vader are 2 separate people. But by the end of the story Luke has learned that Darth Vader is his father. Thus 2 things became 1 thing.

</Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Spoiler>

This is a very famous and popular example of the 2 things becomes 1 thing twist.

This kind of plot twist is used most with characters, as it’s always a shocker when the audience learns that what they though were 2 separate characters was always just 1 person.

Change of Context

The change of context plot twist is what happens when new information is revealed that changes the context of the story.

<The Sixth Sense Spoiler>

A famous example of this kind of plot twist happens in The Sixth Sense.

The Sixth Sense is a story about a boy, named Cole, who sees dead people. The dead don’t know they’re dead, and they can’t see the other dead people.

At the very end it is revealed that the main character Malcolm, played by Bruce Willis, has been dead all along, and just never realized it.

This is a context changing plot twist since after learning this information the way we view the entire story up to that point has changed.

</The Sixth Sense Spoiler>


The Plot Twist at the Midpoint

Now both of the previous twists happen towards the end of their respective movies. In fact that’s where most famous and memorable plot twists happen.

But good stories also have a small, usually context changing, plot twist at their midpoints.

<The Sixth Sense Spoiler>

Although the memorable plot twist of Malcolm being dead happens at the end of the story, there is still a context shifting midpoint at the middle of the story.

Half way through the story, the little boy Cole says, “I see dead people.”

This information is revealed to both the audience and Malcolm at the same time, and it is a context changing plot twist.

Remember that the definition of a plot twist is, “A literary technique that introduces information to the viewer, which causes a change or shift in the direction of the plot.”

The reveal of the paranormal in the middle of the story does create a change in the direction of the plot. So in The Sixth Sense, there is a plot twist at the mid point.

</The Sixth Sense Spoiler>

Now, I find that Star Wars: Episode V does not handle the midpoint as well as The Sixth Sense does.

<Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Spoiler>

Do you want to know what happens at the midpoint of Episode V? Yoda and Luke meet each other, and Yoda agrees to train Luke in the force. Although it does change the context of the story, it isn’t nearly as strong of a midpoint as the one in The Sixth Sense is.

</Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Spoiler>

This is why stories should have some sort of context changing plot twist at their midpoint. It helps add tension, renew the focus of your audience, and adds new information. The Sixth Sense does this very well.

Stories should have plot twists, albeit small ones, at their midpoint, in order to make them more memorable.

But does it also need a plot twist at the end to be memorable?


Surprise Endings – Are They Needed?

No.

While a plot twist at the end certainly helps make stories more memorable, they are by no means needed. It just depends on what you enjoy.

If you like surprise endings, with huge plot twists, then write them! If you prefer endings that are softer and more stable, then go ahead and write those instead.


In conclusion, I do think that a plot twist is needed somewhere in the story, preferably at the midpoint. It just helps shift the context and gives the audience a new perspective. It grabs their attention and keeps them interested.

But twist endings aren’t needed to make a story memorable. The Lord of the Rings trilogy doesn’t have a twist ending, and yet the movies are well-loved. But look at the middle of the movies, and you will find a context changing plot twist.

Yes, a plot twist is needed somewhere in your story.

No, it doesn’t have to be at the very end.

If you enjoyed this blog post, or found it helpful, please leave a like or share it with someone else who would enjoy it.

I blog about creative writing on Wednesdays, so check back next week for some new content.

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3 thoughts on “Does Your Story Need a Plot Twist to be Memorable?

  1. Just read this, and it got me thinmking about one of my favorite books, Crime and Punishment. When my literature class discussed this, we weren’t sure where the climax of the story was– in fact, we decided there were two. The first is at the very end of part one, [the murder] and the second is just before the epilogue [the confession]. I can’t remember exactly the midpoint for the second climax, but the first climax has a change of context midpoint that is done very well. Half-way through the first part, Raskolnikov has a dream about a mob murdering a horse because it was useful while his younger self tries to stop them. It’s after this that we learn this thing that Raskolnikov has been planning, the thing he needs to practice for, the thing that’s been eating him alive, is a murder. There’s heavy symbolism in the midpoint there that I could go into, but I just thought it was interesting to think about in a story with two climaxes.

    Like

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