Plot Twist Basics

A plot twist is a change in the expected direction or outcome of the plot of a film, television series, video game, novel, comic or other fictional work. It is a common practice in narration used to keep the interest of an audience, usually surprising them with a revelation. Some “twists” are foreshadowed and can thus be predicted by many viewers/readers, whereas others are a complete shock. When a plot twist happens near the end of a story, especially if it changes one’s view of the preceding events, it is known as a twist ending.

Revealing the existence of a plot twist often spoils a movie, since the majority of the movie generally builds up to the plot twist. A device used to undermine the expectations of the audience is the false protagonist. It involves presenting a character at the start of the film as the main character, but then disposing of this character, usually killing them. It is a red herring.

Example of a plot twist

An early example of the murder mystery genre[1] with multiple twists[2] was the Arabian Nights tale “The Three Apples”. It begins with a fisherman discovering a locked chest. The first twist occurs when the chest is broken open and the dead body is found inside. The initial search for the murderer fails, and a twist occurs when two men appear, separately claiming to be the murderer. A complex chain of events finally reveal the murderer to be the investigator’s own slave.

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A flashing arrow is a metaphorical audiovisual cue used in films to bring some object or situation that will be referred later, or otherwise used in the advancement of plot, to the attention of the viewers. The device is not introduced into the plot or the dialogue, but is something peripheral; however made obvious (hence the name) by a particular camera shot or background music. An example of this device is a camera close-up in a horror movie that suggests information like danger from an unlocked door.

A literal flashing arrow was used in the 1981 film Student Bodies to mock this cliched use. [1] The use of flashing arrows and that particular joke were both mentioned in Everything Bad is Good for You, where the authors says works that have little use of this and require figuring things out yourself have a more deductive viewer base. Another example of a literal flashing arrow can be seen in the Ouran High School Host Club. This device is used several times throughout the anime—for instance in the first episode, a flashing arrow and high-pitched beeping oise indicate a vase that a character breaks later on in that scene. Red herring is an idiomatic expression referring to the rhetorical or literary tactic of diverting attention away from an item of significance. [1] For example, in mystery fiction, where the identity of a criminal is being sought, an innocent party may be purposefully cast in a guilty light by the author through the employment of deceptive clues, false emphasis, ‘loaded’ words or other descriptive tricks of the trade.

The reader’s suspicions are thus misdirected, allowing the true culprit to go (temporarily at least) undetected. A false protagonist is another example of a red herring. In the comic book fan community, the apparent death and subsequent return of a long-running character is often called a comic book death. While death is a serious subject, a comic book death is generally not taken seriously and is rarely permanent or meaningful. At least three comic book deaths are well known.

The first two are the 1980 “death” of Jean Grey in Marvel’s Dark Phoenix Saga and that ofSuperman in DC’s highly-publicized 1993 Death of Superman storyline. There is one major distinction between the two, however – whereas it was never intended that Superman’s death be permanent, and that he would return to life at the conclusion of the story,[3] Jean’s passing (one of many temporary deaths among the X-Men) was written as the true and permanent death of the character,[citation needed] only to beretconned a few years later to facilitate her return.

In more recent history, the death of Captain America made real-world headlines in early 2007[4] when he met his apparent end, but Steve Rogers returned in Captain America: Reborn in late 2009. Usually more subtle, foreshadowing works on the symbolic level. For example, if a character must break up a schoolyard fight among some boys, it might symbolically foreshadow the family squabbles that will become the central conflict of the story.

Other times, it is seemingly inconsequential, with the goal of having the audience be surprised by the story’s climax and yet find it justified. If a character learns that a certain man was a regular at the diner where her mother worked many years before, it helps to justify the events later in which she learns that the man is her biological father. If foreshadowing is not done carefully, the common experiences of life can make the foreshadowing too obvious and allow the audience to predict the outcome of the story.

Example: a character behaves in an odd and erratic fashion and complains continuously of a headache, then later is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Foreshadowing can also be used dishonestly in a mystery, where a series of events which points to a conclusion is later found to be composed of unlikely coincidences which have been “dishonestly” added to the story by the author in an artificial way, with the sole purpose of drawing the audience into an incorrect expectation. In such cases, the audience feels manipulated, and the story may be less satisfying.

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Plot Twist Basics. (2018, Jul 25). Retrieved from

Plot Twist Basics
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