lies vs. twists

Lies

I hate being lied to. It’s a pet peeve of mine. An epic pet peeve.

If it were a literal animal, it would be one I keep in a pit. When someone dares to lie in my presence, I’d casually throw a hidden lever and watch them disappear down a trap door. When they landed hard on the dungeon-like surface below, I’d holler down, “Have fun playing with my pet!”

That kind of pet peeve.

It bothers me in personal relationships, it bothers me in business, and it bothers me in fiction. Don’t say one thing about a character, for example, and then double back later and alter your previous declaration. That’s not a twist. That’s a lie, and it’s the laziest kind of writing.

It’s also the easiest way to create the ever allusive plot twist. Hell, in that capacity it’s foolproof. You know, except for the fact that it’s cheating.

If you ask me, plot twists are overrated. Strong fiction doesn’t need a forced, fabricated twist to make it interesting. It’s already interesting. The best twists are the ones the writer didn’t even see coming, even (and maybe especially) in horror. After all, that’s how life works. Full of curve balls.

(I hate sports metaphors, and here I am using one. How’s that for a twist?)

However, the suspense genre tends to regard plot twists as essential. In fact, that’s what many of us take ‘suspense’ to mean. There has to be a twist. So if you’re doing that kind of writing and you want to incorporate a truly tantalizing twist without cheating, here’s out you do it.

Work for it.

Construct a scenario that’s just right. One that’s misleading without ever lying to your readers. Develop complex characters in a fictional world that’s fully fleshed out. Pace the story, allowing the plot to unfold at its own natural pace. Resign yourself to the fact that you will not nail it on the first draft, instead writing several drafts of the damn thing–10 or more is not out of the question–as it will take a while to get everything down right. And when you’re done, hack it to bits looking for holes (real holes) and inconsistencies.

Earn the title ‘author’ by being one. Refuse to take the easy way out.

If you’re going to do plot twists, do ’em right. There’s no shortage of lies and lairs in the world. You don’t need to sacrifice your fiction or your integrity for the sake of a nonexistent deficit.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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