Episode 224: Trickeration

On April 1, 2023, Kasie and Rex took on the plot twist. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

Trickeration: The Twist


  • What is a plot twist?
  • What are some classic (famous) plot twists?
  • Why don’t you see it coming?
  • Why don’t you feel tricked by it?
  • How to write a plot twist
Photo by u0110u00e0ng Thiu1ec7n Thanh Tu00e0i on Pexels.com

Last month we looked at built-in stakes in everything from sports to family reunions. We left unexplored things like addictions and phobias as natural stakes-building devices. Nevertheless, this week we’re capitalizing on April Fool’s Day with the ultimate trickeration: The Plot Twist.

Let’s start with what a plot twist is. From our friends at LiteraryTerms.com, a Plot Twist is an unexpected turn in events that make up the structure of the story that completely changes the trajectory of the story. Some examples (link and link and link):

  • Great Expectations
  • Girl on the Train
  • The Portrait of a Lady
  • Gone Girl
  • Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson

So what does a plot twist have to have in order to work? This link suggests three things:

  • Must be narratively sound – which means what?
  • Must be unexpected – duh?
  • Might be foreshadowed. – but might not be? explain.

Segment 2/3

Some unexpected twists that have happened so frequently we now expect them (same link):

  1. I am your father – surprise parentage, secret sibling
  2. It was me all along – protagonist is his own worst enemy (Fight Club) see also Orphan Black
  3. Will the real evil please stand up? – in which the enemy is an unexpected character (Prince Hans from Frozen)
  4. Love the way you lie – unreliable narrators unite! (Atonement, Life of Pi)
  5. Hero breaks it and must fix it … again – the antidote is actually poison, winning triggers the apocalypse (The Incredibles)
  6. That wasn’t actually the final – you think you defeated the big bad but actually, there’s someone behind that dude (see Batman Begins and Ra’s al Ghul, Iron Man 3 and the bad British actor pretending to be a terrorist)
  7. And then I woke up – in which the entire thing turns out to be a dream; the ultimate trickery? Then why do we see it again and again? (An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge)
  8. Must pretend harder to look alive – in which we learn a character has been dead all along (The Sixth Sense)
  9. Not too dead to ruin everyone’s day – Someone (a villain) who is supposed to be dead isn’t actually dead (Pirates of the Caribbean – Barbosa; Wreck-it Ralph)
  10. Bet You Thought You’d Seen the Last of Me, Suckers – in which a character is resurrected either because of fan demand or because you couldn’t finish the story without him (Aslan, Gandalf)
  11. Where are we, really? – in which the setting is the trickster (Planet of the Apes, The Good Place)
  12. Invisible Good Guy – the person you don’t think you can trust, you actually can (looking at you, Severus Snape)
  13. Gasp Factor – shocking for the sake of shocking? Ned Stark’s beheading anyone?
  14. Out-Of-Nowhere – Why is the Wizard of Oz actually a middle-aged man and failed balloon pilot?

Segment 4

So how do you do it? Here’s a list of a few ideas.

  1. The narrator is not the person we thought they were.
  2. A weakness of a character is actually their greatest strength.
  3. A character’s strength defeats them.
  4. A character’s weakness saves them.
  5. The weakest character is the villain.
  6. The strongest character is the first to die.
  7. The smartest character is the first to be outwitted.
  8. The most skilled character succumbs to the least skilled character. 
  9. The protagonist is living two lives.

And here’s some prompts you can write on to give it a try:

  1. CHARACTER A is persuaded by CHARACTER B that it is all a dream — when it’s actually not.
  2. A gift from CHARACTER B to CHARACTER A is really a trap.
  3. It is revealed that the NARRATOR is Death.
  4. An ARCHAEOLOGIST at a dig comes across his own skeleton.
  5. CHARACTER A discovers the real identity of CHARACTER B through an old yearbook.
  6. It is revealed that all the sounds that CHARACTER A has heard throughout his life has been inside his own head.
  7. CHARACTER A believes he is in Hell. It’s actually Earth.
  8. It is revealed that CHARACTER A and CHARACTER B are not themselves because they were body-swapped.
  9. CHARACTER A is informed that the previous events were actually part of an alternate reality simulation.
  10. It is revealed that SANTA CLAUS is real.

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