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Romance Writers: Do the Twist! Part 3

First Published in Writing on Gabriela Pereira's

MAY 18, 2021 by Tammy Lough

Parts I and II of this article dealt with ideas for writing a plot twist. You can check our Parts I and II, here and here. Part III will take you through the mechanics, the nuts and bolts of making it happen.

By following the mechanics of writing plot twists and paying attention to the nuts and bolts, you will force your reader to stop mid-scene, turn back a few pages (or chapters), and try to determine how you sneaked in this startling twist without them having a clue. But they had a clue. Several. 

Here’s the deal with a plot twist: You must outsmart your reader. If you don’t think smart and write smart, your reader will slap your book closed and buy nothing that leaked from your pen again. You have to get this right. So:

Plan Like You Are Building a Cottage . . . A Book Cottage!

Your future best-selling twisty-turny novel must start with a solid foundation. You need a plan. Planners have an edge over Pansters when writing a romance novel with twists and turns. Why? Because we must lay subtle clues in the proper places for the magic to work.


Write an outline of your entire romance novel from the first word in chapter one through the starry-eyed happily ever after ending. Scour your outline as you consider places to add plot twists. Do this from beginning to end, jotting down every single incidence. Then delete this list.   Delete? Yes. If you so easily found places and ideas for plot twists, so did your reader. You must be shiftier than that. 

Think of sneaky places for plot twists that are so snarky and out of the box you will fool even the seasoned reader. Guess what? Toss those ideas too and think of some more. 

Create a twist so unforeseen that not one reader can guess what is in the works. When the twist is revealed, your reader thinks, Yes, that makes perfect sense, and I never saw it coming. Your goal? To write plot twists no one guesses, and after the reveal, everyone gives themselves a forehead thump.

Once you determine the perfect, I gotcha plot twist jewels, the ones that made the final, final  cut, insert them into your novel with a sly, sneaky, snarky grin. 

Install Insulation

Read your manuscript to make certain each twist moves the plot forward and makes sense to the story. Otherwise, what are they doing in your book?

The insulation is the story around the story. The protective covering holding the story together and composed of the setting, characters, plot points, etc. The whole enchilada with air spaces for the insertion of twists and turns.

A potential elevator pitch for an “insulated” romance novel with a twist? Young man stationed overseas tells pregnant girlfriend how much she will adore his mother when she goes to live with her during her final trimester of pregnancy. The girl thinks her boyfriend is a weirdo when his mother turns out to be a Mom-Zilla.

Twist: This woman (aka psychotic she-demon) had murdered the actual mother before the girl’s arrival and is posing as her for monetary gain. Woo Hoo, a twisty-twist!

Interior and Exterior Finishes

Once you tuck twists nice and cozy into your manuscript, it is time to find hidey-holes to plant the subtle clues for your twists. Don’t ignore “hot spots” for tucking clues into scenes of your story where the reader may concentrate on the action, like a love scene, and may not notice the addition of your clue. 

The Final Walk Through 

Read your manuscript carefully to make sure your twists and turns fit the story and make sense. 

Decide if subtle clues are too obvious and need toning down, or if you need to consider adding more clues. Paint an overall picture of your story in your mind and make certain to apply every virtual brushstroke.

Finally, ask yourself: Have I used the best clues to uphold the major story while creating twists that bring more continuity to the story—but only after revealing the twist? If the answer is yes, congratulations, you made it to twisted authordom!

Writers Write!

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