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Plot Twist

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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. An obvious twist isn't much of a twist at all. When the viewer already knows the twist, due to being previously spoiled, the twist might not be as satisfying, but the opposite can also be true — you appreciate all the work that went into setting up the twist more once you know it. Of course, you can always have it both ways by avoiding spoilers the first time, then re-watching or re-reading the work. On the other end, if a plot twist is too obscure, it can leave the viewer feeling cheated — how could anyone have guessed that?

Note that Plot Twists refer to twists in the overall plot, and generally have lasting effects. 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. A common form of Shocking Moment.



Video Example(s):


"Daddy's Gone Now..."

(Spoilers) After unpacking the boxes that are never unpacked, looking at his stuff, and notices that his journal is completely blank, it is revealed that Charlie, Emily's imaginary friend is actually David's twisted split personality. Flashbacks shows "Charlie" murdering Alison with a pillow for making out with another guest at a New Year's Eve party & pretending that she commit suicide in the bathtub, pushing Elizabeth out the window & receiving an arm scratch from her, and killing a butterfly in half after coming out of a cave.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / NotSoImaginaryFriend

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