Plot Twist

By: Kathryn Clark

I want to start this post by saying that I am completely, unabashedly a literary nerd. Whenever I read a story, part of my mind is always whirling in the background, figuring out how the story works and what techniques the author used to make the pieces fit together. The downside is that after a while, certain stories tend to become predictable. This is especially true of horror. I spend quite a lot of time on reddit/nosleep (a forum dedicated to horror stories), and though most of the posts are good, I rarely find one that actually surprises me. Which is too bad, because I believe that genuine shock is one of the best tools in a horror writer’s arsenal.

There is definitely a technique to writing a good plot twist. You need to keep a careful balance between revealing too much information and not revealing enough. Too much info, and the reader will see the twist coming from a mile off. Yet there’s much less satisfaction in twists that appear out of nowhere. The best plot twists don’t just shock you for a moment – they make you comb through the story a second time, your eyes widening as you realize how many clues were scattered throughout the plot, wondering how you could have missed this the first time.

I love any well-written plot twist, of course. But when horror stories utilize this technique, the shock from the twist mingles with the horror that the story induced, making both reactions even more potent. I believe that there’s something inherently frightening about the unknown. Known enemies are frightening, but they at least offer a sense of certainty. When facing the unknown, anything could happen. You’re frightened without knowing exactly why you should be frightened; haunted by things you could never understand. And while this type of uncertainty is scary enough on its own, the best plot twists will take it a step further. They allow you to believe that you know what’s happening, only to rip away that security without warning. It feels as if the ground has crumbled beneath your feet, and I find these sudden reversals to be terrifying in a way that few other stories are.

Out of the hundreds of stories that I have read online over the years, there have only been a few that have managed to evoke a visceral reaction from me. If any of you are looking for a horror story that will shock you to the core and knock the wind from your lungs, I have a few recommendations. “My Girl” is exceptionally creepy precisely because of the hints it litters throughout the text. It took me a few seconds to understand “The Green Corvette”, but my stomach dropped the moment I made the connection. And “Nothing’s Going to Get You” actually made me gasp out loud.

Not all of these stories will be surprising to everyone. Everyone has a different experience when they read something for the first time, and foreshadowing that I missed by first time through might seem glaringly obvious to someone else. I’d be really interested in hearing how other people react to these stories, and if anyone else has any story recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Happy reading!




4 thoughts on “Plot Twist

  1. I loved this unique blog post! I am definitely going to read your suggested stories. I actually have been browsing the web looking for a story to write about for our english 290 project, so I am definitely going to utilize the websites you suggested! I completely agree with that certain stories seem glaringly obvious to others, while scary and hidden lines to others. I think this is why I love coming to class and discussing the horror pieces we were assigned because everyone’s interpretations are so different!

  2. I’m not sure if you are also interested in movies that have incredible plot twists, but if you are I would highly recommend “House at the End of the Street” with Jennifer Lawrence, “The Boy,” and “Shut In” that just came out. All are amazing movies that were made even more amazing from their unexpected ends. I should watch them all again to look for the little sprinkled clues that you mention in this post – it would be interesting to search for them!

  3. Thank you for these suggestions! I will definitely take a look as soon as my finals are over. This was a very interesting blog post to me because you gave us the opportunity to understand a complex part of enjoying literature and then suggested somethings that demonstrated that perfectly! I also love a good plot twist, but I hate when I see them coming, it completely ruins the whole idea and I end up feeling bad for not experiencing the literature (term used loosely) as the author meant me to.

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