Everybody loves a twist, right?
A great twist is an enticing prospect for many readers in choosing their next read and it is my view, this is never more important than in the psychological thriller.
I think it’s fair to say that writers of psychological thrillers dream of coming up with the kind of twist that shocks and delights their readers. An unexpected event or plot development that sends the reader scurrying back through the book to check if the clues were there all the time and finding that yes... indeed they were. The wool has well and truly been pulled over their eyes.
I like to call such a twist a game changer. There was, many would argue, such a twist in my second thriller, Blink. A cursory glance through reviews will show the disbelief and delight of readers who were successfully bamboozled by a hefty plot blow from left-field.
Yet it could be argued that the ‘big twist’ is an ever-increasing pressure on the crime author and one of the questions I get asked rather a lot is, how do you think them up? So, I decided to put together a few bullet points that I hope will be interesting to both writers and readers... without giving too many of my dastardly plot devices away, of course!
Without further ado, here are my tantalising twist tips:
I wouldn’t call myself a particularly logical person... and I think this helps. Given the necessary time and space, my mind often veers off at a bit of a tangent when thinking through the overview of a story. When it comes to plot, this can present me with a wisp of an idea for a twist.
Most twists occur to me during the writing of the book. I often advise writers not to get caught up about what the twist(s) will be. Worrying too much in the early stages can be paralysing when it comes to getting the story flowing. It’s far more constructive, I find, to foster a faith that all will reveal itself perfectly as the narrative progresses.
Remember that twists don’t have to be game changing to please the reader. A twist that turns the story on its head is a beautiful thing but it’s virtually impossible to pull these out of the bag each and every time. And sometimes the reader will guess the twist – but that’s OK. In my experience, if the reader still enjoys the story and feels it is well-crafted, they won’t mind having rumbled your big surprise and will enjoy taking the credit of seeing through your smoke and mirrors!
A twist on its own isn’t good enough... as a thriller writer, you must play with the reader’s mind! Build the pace and tension, get the reader on the edge of her seat as she feels the story swell until…BANG…there it is!
Sometimes, a title tagline boasting an incredible twist can be good for sales but unhelpful for the author as it can set the reader a challenge from the beginning. It’s tempting for them to rush through the book, trying to spot the twists as speedily as possible without getting fully invested in the story. It’s a hard one for authors but I try and make my characters interesting enough to encourage the reader slow down and find out more about them.
I’ve learned that my readers don’t trust me one iota. My fourth psychological thriller, The Mistake, has just been published and readers are often suspicious from the very first page! That’s OK, I like them tense enough to be chewing their nails from the off... in the nicest possible way, of course!