Suspense and Plot Twist

As you draw nearer to the end of your short story you might be thinking about where to take it. How to finish it with impact…

How to make a lasting impression...

For some of you, your story might be looking exactly how you originally mapped it out. For others, it may have taken a different direction to what you originally intended – both are perfectly fine!

Either way, you may have a plan to finish your story with a plot twist – an unexpected development of events.

Short stories are ideal for this. You grab attention with your introduction, you draw on your readers’ empathy for your characters as the story progresses and you finish with something they didn’t expect.

This will ensure that your story is remembered long after the last word is read.

But before you reach that plot twist, you will likely be building what is known as suspense. Both go hand in hand – in fact, you could say that they need each other.

Suspense is a state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen.

Now, take a minute to look back at your story and see if you can identify an area where you hinted at something that might happen, and build on that.

Has a character entered the story that the reader might be uncertain about? Has someone made a remark that alludes to a deeper meaning or something that’s happened in the past –something that may impact the future?

If not, maybe that’s what your story needs… Not every story needs suspense but those who are working up to a plot twist will certainly benefit from it.

You can use dialogue to create
suspense…
“He told me if I ever talked about what happened it would change everything…”

You can also use description…
As they crept around the side of the old house the feeling of dread intensified. They knew they shouldn’t have gone there, especially after dark. Suddenly, a loud shrieking noise filled the skies and Maria knew that the feeling of regret would never leave her…

Take the following two paragraphs for example. You will notice that the second version is a lot easier and quicker to read, despite the fact that it doesn’t actually use fewer words…

As they crept around the side of the old house the feeling of dread intensified. They knew they shouldn’t have gone there, especially after dark. “Whose idea was this anyway?” Mark asked, unable to hide the fear in his voice.

“He told me if I ever talked about what happened it would change everything,” said Maria, preoccupied by herown thoughts. “But he didn’t say I couldn’t show you…”
Suddenly, a loud shrieking noise filled the skies and Maria knew that the feeling of regret would never leave her…

Most of the written work will go into the building of suspense – so long as you have your plot twist well thought out.

However, in order for both to work well together you need to have the reader hooked. Once you have, you can deliver your plot twist in just a couple of lines.

Does someone the reader thought had died turn up? Does the person the reader believed to have committed the crime turn out to be wrongfully accused? Does the reader find out that the main character’s brother is adopted?

Whatever the twist, so long as it is a complete surprise you have succeeded in carrying it off.

That doesn’t, however, stop the reader from guessing beforehand!
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