The best writer-oriented event I attended at Mancunicon was also the first I went to – a panel on plot twists on the Friday afternoon. Moderated by Gillian Redfearn, Publishing Director at Gollancz, it also featured authors Susan Bartholomew, Charles Stross, David Tallerman, Chris Wooding and Sebastien de Castell. All involved were on fine form, being both entertaining and insightful. Among their top writing tips were:
- A good twist should be preceded by a bunch of stuff you can look back at afterwards and say “I should have known” (CW).
- Be careful that your twist doesn’t ruin the meaning of what came before (DT).
- Be careful your twist doesn’t undermine the main character – Poirot should have noticed what was happening in Murder on the Orient Express, so making it a twist undermined his credibility as a smart character (GR).
- A good twist doesn’t come too soon or too late – usually about two-thirds of the way through the story (SB).
- A good twist gives the narrative a different meaning (DT).
- A twist that makes everything before it a lie or irrelevant is a bad twist, as readers feel like they’ve been wasting their time (CW/DT).
- A twist should be seasoning, not something the whole story relies on to work (SdC).
- The further you twist things, the more likely that you just won’t be in your genre any more (CW).
- Your twist needs to be consistent with the setup earlier in the work – plausible but not predictable (CS).