Laying a false trail

Twisting the tale involves laying a false trail in such a way that any surprise ending is a feasible one. The clues must be double-edged, so that whilst carefully steering the reader in the wrong direction, on closer examination they actually lead to the right one.

For example, in our story about Sally Blake, the minute Nick meets Sophie, he appears to be following Route (a) in the chart in Figure 9, ditching Sally in favour of her sister when, in fact, he is actually following Route (b). As both routes are equally valid, neither Sally nor the reader will feel cheated when the truth is revealed.

Nick appears to be very interested in Sophie

(a) He finds her sexually attractive

(b) He recognises that she is a drug addict

When questioned by Sally, Nick is evasive

(a) He wants to ditch her for her sister

(b) He wants to protect her from the truth

Nick is cagey about his past

(b) He is a detective working undercover

Nick and Sophie disappear together

(a) They have run off together

(b) Nick has taken her to a clinic to kick her drug habit

Fig. 9. Twist clue format. The reader should be deliberately led to believe that the first answers, Route (a) are correct. However, the second answers are equally valid and Route (b) is, in fact, the correct one.

Fig. 9. Twist clue format. The reader should be deliberately led to believe that the first answers, Route (a) are correct. However, the second answers are equally valid and Route (b) is, in fact, the correct one.

In a twist story, the reader should be kept guessing right to the end. For detailed information on how to write twist-in-tale short stories, see my book in How To Books' guides series entitled Writing for Magazines.

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