Created By: Discar on May 10, 2011

Plot Twist

A sudden change in the fortunes of the characters or setting.

Name Space:
Page Type:
No, we do not have this one, amazingly enough. An Omnipresent Trope but right now it redirects to Twist Ending, which is decidedly a subtrope of this.

One of the basic building blocks of plot, a Plot Twist is a sudden, unexpected change in the fortunes or situations of the characters, setting, or plot.

Plot Twists are usually based on the assumption that there is something going on that we, the readers/viewers/players, don't know about; if we had known about it, it would hardly be surprising. When it is revealed to us, we are surprised and shocked. This includes hidden aspects of particular characters' backstories or their personalities ("I never would have thought Alice could kick Bob's head into the locker!")

Sometimes even when we do have all the information, the twist can come as a shock due to a sudden, unforeseen action by other actors in the plot, the setting or place it's occurring in. We could see an action that we'd long predicted but not all its ramifications, so the shock value is still there. Alternatively, while we've seen characters' emotions, we may not always be clued into the extent of their thoughts, so a particular action may still come as a shock.

A good Plot Twist relies on the viewer not to figure it out in advance. When the viewer already knows, due to it being telegraphed ahead or them being previously spoiled, the twist is often a letdown.

Note that Plot Twists refer to twists in the overall plot. An individual scene, such as a fight scene, can have several reversals in the fates of the combatants but none of them can be called a Plot Twist. If the twist is of minor significance to the overall plot, it does not fall into this category.

Contrast Dramatic Irony, which is where the audience knows something that one or more characters do not.

No examples please. Examples should go in one of the subtropes.


Should probably remove many tropes from Surprise Tropes to here as well, and limit Surprise Tropes to those where a character is surprised (see below).


Others welcome.
Community Feedback Replies: 5
  • May 10, 2011
    Some jackass launched a bunch of YKTTW (including this one) without actually making the tropes or doing anything other than pulling them off the page. Here's the old YKTTW, with comments and examples.
  • May 11, 2011
    Definitely needs references to Heel Face Turn or Face Heel Turn--very common plot twists.
  • May 11, 2011
    ^They can be related, but if this page is shaping up to be an index, they wouldn't really fall under it. A character turn can be a twist, but it isn't always. Sometimes it's just character development.

    Maybe this needs a section for tropes that can be played as twists but aren't always?
  • May 12, 2011
    Heel Face Turn etc. fall under Betrayal Tropes - pretty much everything there is going to be a Plot Twist nearly all the time. It is going to be a little tricky to figure out what is "almost always" a Plot Twist versus only "sometimes" but shouldn't be too bad. 8-)

    Going to launch later today. Thanks for the rescue Discar! I was wondering what happened to it. Not sure how the wiki will react to the same trope launching twice so I'll just add this link in the discussion section.
  • May 13, 2011
    It's been launched to Plot Twist. Added this link as a secondary YKTTW archive.