I just finished reading Alloy of Law, A Mistborn Story by Brandon Sanderson. I’d been hesitant because it’s a western fantasy, which isn’t exactly my reading preference.

But I enjoyed the Mistborn series and have been having a desperately hard time finding good new fantasies to read.

Halfway through I wouldn’t have called it one of my favorites. But the twist at the end totally blew me away, something Sanderson is very good at. And it got me thinking.

Can a sensational ending with a great plot twist make a story amazing even if the rest of the story is so-so?


My conclusion is yes.

I’ve blogged prior about the importance of endings. No matter how good a story starts or how well it carries the reader along, a bad ending will ruin a perfect book.

But a great ending can make up for so much because it leaves you satisfied and craving more of the same from that author.

I consider Sanderson a master of the plot twist, sometimes too much so (Hero of Ages had too many twists in my opinion). I wouldn’t see myself as a plot twist expert, although all of my stories include them.

See the difficulty lies in setting up the twist well enough to be plausible, but not so obvious that everyone figures it out before the reveal.

An irrational plot twist requires the reader to suspend too much disbelief to buy it, and an obvious one makes the story fall flat. I want my readers to reach a plot twist and go, “Woah, I didn’t see that coming – I have no clue where this is headed now.”

Because that keeps the pages turning 🙂

So, what do you think? Do you enjoy massive plot twists in your reading? As an author do you view them as a necessary tool in your writing? Or do they annoy you altogether?


About Will Ramirez

Will Ramirez grew up with a love for God's Word and fantastical worlds. The first passion led him to pastor Calvary Chapel Lighthouse for the the last 17 years. The second led him to create the world of Adme, the setting for his coming debut novel, an epic fantasy titled Soul Yearning. He lives in Central Florida with his bride of seventeen years and their four children. Since 2010, he's been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the leadership team of Word Weavers of Orlando. He is currently working on the second book of the Godslayer series as well as The Unspoken, book one of a dark fantasy trilogy. In the land of Adme, powerful beings rule as deities and compete with one another for followers. But when a young priest is revealed as the prophesied godslayer, the pantheon unites to destroy him.

11 comments on “Twists

  1. I think the great ending only works if you stick with the book long enough to get there. If the book is really “so-so”, not sure how many readers would stick with it to the finish.

    Although huge plot twists can be annoying if poorly done, I think overall I’m a fan. When watching the TV series ‘Alias’, there was a huge twist at the beginning of one season that TOTALLY threw me. I did not expect it. It was HUGE. It blew me away. It changed the game. From then on, I knew that all bets were off and anything could happen. I think I liked that experience, though it was relatively new for me.

    However, after several flip-flops and twists, I did start feeling like the writer(s) were playing puppet master and manipulating events purely to try and make me feel one thing or another. Once I start feeling manipulated, once I’m aware of the people pulling the strings, I do feel that they’ve failed somewhat in terms of storytellers.

    It can be a fine line.

    • I totally agree that one would need to get to the finish. If I get past the first chapter or two though, I almost always finish a book. Which is why I think beginnings are so important as well 🙂

  2. It depends on the plot twist, Will.

    I don’t mind a book where the plot twist inadvertently becomes obvious to me if there is enough character development and conflict/conflict resolution going on to keep it interesting. I also like those authors who make me feel smart as a reader for figuring it out when their characters, however intelligent, don’t see disaster looming, or that big (hopefully good) surprise coming round the bend toward them. It’s good to make your readers feel smart…

    It’s the authors that make me feel dumb at either end of the spectrum that I don’t go back to read again: i.e., “The author presents this event as if it was the only expected outcome, so how did I NOT see that coming? I should have seen THAT coming.” or “This author’s readers must all be really dumb, the way she’s shoveling clues in their faces–hey wait! I’m reading this, that makes me one of her readers–oh bad bad bad!”

  3. One of the great things abut the movie MADAGASCAR 3: ESCAPE FROM AFRICA is that almost every major turn of the plot would be a plot twist in the usual sense if toward the end, can catch you completely by surprise (they did me), and yet is completely organic. (Well, having Cartoon Physics on your side as a screenwriter helps in pulling some such such things off.) And the payoff in the final twist was huge – it redeemed Alex & Co.’s “dandy lyin'” in order to get into the traveling circus in the first place. To make it so may have taken some reverse-engineering once the plot was being wrapped up in first draft, or it may not, but it worked.

    In other words, I love good twists, and for me they are the hardest things to do. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually written a really good, yet organic plot twist. To do so you have to be willing to afflict your protagonists somehow, and I’ve not grown to the point where I can do that easily or willingly.

    • I am finding that the books I become most satisfied with are the ones where so many of the “normal” options for the protagonist are taken away (due to the afflictions you mention). And then they find a way to overcome that makes sense and shows their heroism.

      So maybe the key to developing a plot twist that pays off is being creative enough to make someone genuinely heroic in the direst of circumstances…thanks for posting John!

  4. Reblogged this on Tales of the Undying Singer and commented:
    Because some writers are really, really good at plotting them… and I’m not. 😛

  5. “In other words, I love good twists, and for me they are the hardest things to do. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually written a really good, yet organic plot twist.”

    Sums up what I was going to say. =)
    I don’t usually figure things out ahead of time – in fact, several people figured out plot points in my novel before I’d even gotten through telling them the set up. At this point, though, there’s no surprises for my novel, and I don’t really care. It’s just good in its simplicity in my opinion. =)

    Best “Holy Cow” twist for me had to be Vanish by Tom Pawlik. The less you know about the story, the better it is when you get there. The ending still fell a bit flat after that since Christian books “need” to over-explain the significance of things, but it was still an awesome story.

    • When I asked some Beta readers about a plot twist in my book, I got about a half and half response of those who were expecting it and those it surprised. I think I’m comfortable with that. Kinda goes with Krysti’s comment about not making the reader feel dumb.

      I will say that sometimes I don’t want to think too deeply and just enjoy a good story. Hero of Ages had so many twists in the end that it took away from the tension in my opinion.

  6. I like a good plot twist, but it’s got to be real. If it just comes out of nowhere for the sake of “psych!” then you lost me.

    I wish I could twist plots better than I do, but the biggest rejection compliment I ever got was when an editor said when he was reading my book he never knew what was coming next. I was pleased with that result.

    • “If it just comes out of nowhere for the sake of “psych!” then you lost me.”

      Kind of like in the second Matrix movie when Neo zaps the machine in the real world and there’s no reasonable explanation….ever…

      Yeah that 🙂 Easy way to lose your reader/viewer.

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