Short stories are my favorite form of prose. They are extremely interesting; the plot unfolds and introduces exciting characters and the best part is that they are short. A short story is the best way to pass a few hours and also to determine the literary expertise of a writer. One of my favorite short story writers is Jeffery Archer. Do you know why I love to read his works? It is because his short stories end with a wonderful twist in the tale which leaves the reader admiring the genius of this author’s creations.
Pick up any one of these short story collections by Archer- ‘Cat O Nine Tales’, ‘A Quiver Full Of Arrows’ or ‘Twelve Red Herrings’, you will notice that this author specializes in giving an exciting twist to his tales. You can also read short stories by ‘O Henry’ to get an idea of what a twist in the tale is.
To give you a clear example, I will talk about the short story ‘The Diamond Necklace’, by ‘Guy De Maupassant’. The plot revolves around an ambitious lady, Mathilde, who unceasingly dreams of wealth and being in the company of the wealthy. She is unfortunately married off to a clerk with meager means. One day they are invited to a classy party where the wealthiest people in town are going to be present. Mathilde decides to look her best for this party; she buys a beautiful gown out of her savings and decides to borrow an exquisite diamond necklace from her best friend. At the party, Mathilde dazzles! She is admired for her beauty and grace by one and all and it is the one memory she hopes to live her entire life revisiting. As luck would have it, Mathilde loses the diamond necklace and is forced to take a huge loan to buy another one and return it to her friend. Now, the life of real poverty begins. Her husband takes up dual jobs, she works hard at home and in a total of tenyears they are able to repay the massive debt. Ten years of her youth and beauty are spent saving little pennies! Those years are harsh on Mathilde’s beauty and she is bereft of all the grace and splendor she was once proud of. Looking like a commoner now, she ends up living a life she thought she was never capable of enduring. Now the twist in the tale! After the repayment of debt, Mathilde runs into the friend who loaned her the doomed diamond necklace. She narrates her life events to her friend only to discover that the diamond necklace she had borrowed and nearly ruined her life to return, was a fake!
What melancholic twist in the tale, right? I will give you a few other tips that you can use to write interesting tales with a twist. The first and the foremost thing to avoid is predictability. If your readers are able to judge what twist you are planning to add to the story, it becomes a worthless piece of addition to your tale.
The best twist in a short story in one where the reader least expects it. This will require a thoughtful focus on adding the twist where it is unexpected. The reader should in no way be able to know what is going to happen further. If you want to make your short story interesting, you need to keep it crisp. Remember, if you have a non-abstract style of writing, it is very important to keep the twist a moderate one. You cannot come up with an unbelievably impossible twist in your story.
Here are five great techniques that you may want to consider for adding a twist to your tales:
1. Leave the end to the readers’ imagination
One of the most difficult things to do, however if done with finesse, you can actually make your story linger on the minds of your readers. The ambiguous ending, as we know it is one where the end is not a definitive statement. You can go ahead and have an ‘open ending’ to your story. There is no conclusive end to the plot and a lot is left to the reader’s imagination.End the story with a line that goes something like “But that’s what should have happened had I not chosen to..”
2. Make the narrator add a twist
If your story is in the form of a narration, you can use the narrator’s character as a twist in your story. The narrator can sway readers in a direction different from what you have in mind. You will need to keep the unreliability of the narrator a secret and make sure that the readers believe him right till to the point of the twist.
3. Role Reversal
This is a usual approach in the movies as well as short stories. The hero ends up emerging as the villain and the villain is the actual hero. Moderation is the key here and the reader should not for once feel that the hero/villain is doing things that can’t be related to their characters. A few ideas need to be sprinkled across the story that makes the transformation believable.
4. Begin backwards
The idea here is to begin the story with some sort of a climax. This is the best technique used by writers too involve the readers in their plots. Since the reader is now engrossed in the story, you can easily add a twist so as a surprise.
5. Kill the protagonist
This is a risky deal, but killing off the protagonist is the ultimate twist. It is something that the readers least expect. They might take it badly but you have added a great twist to the story! When a reader picks up a book and starts reading, in their minds they form a sort of relationship with the characters. Knowing that a certain character will not follow through to the end is an interesting twist for the readers.
You can also add a dual twist to your tale by making the death of the character a fake one! This needs to be added reasonably and believably.
6. Make the main character imaginary
Another risky, yet highly effective twist. You can make the main character a figment of someone else’s imagination. This works to stimulate the imagination of the reader and is an unexpected twist. What I am talking about is something like the twist in ‘Shutter Island’ where the protagonist does not know that he is the inmate of the mental asylum rather imagines himself to be one of the detectives solving a mystery.