Tell it Like a Trickster: How to Write a Good Twist

WritersdontcryIf a Trickster told a joke, it would be a pun. If a Trickster wrote a poem, it would be a limerick. And if a Trickster wrote a novel, it would have a twist. A classic, beloved archetype, embodied in Loki, Coyote, Iktomi, and Puck among others, Tricksters love to make us gasp--and often end up making us groan. They can be cruel, whimsical, wise, and foolish, all in the same story. And their goals range from educational to punitive to the simple desire to have a little fun at our expense. But whether their intentions are golden or ghastly, Tricksters steal our hearts with their clever ways.Twist

When you tell a story with a twist, you are taking on the role of the Trickster. As the reader’s sole experience of your story is in your authorial hands, we readers kind of expect you to tell it to us straight. So when you take that trust, then give the story a twist, you’re tricking us! And nine times out of ten, we love it. Like five-year-olds, we’re fascinated when adults break the rules, and we love a good surprise or a clever trick. But, of course, as many a Trickster has learned the hard way, you have to be careful when playing the Trickster, because while we may love to be tricked, we hate being made to look foolish.

Think of the books or movies you know that feature a memorable twist: The Sixth Sense, The Maze Runner, Ender’s Game, The Watchmen, Never Let Me Go, Fight Club, The Da Vinci Code, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister . . . Even Star Wars features a prominent twist (you know it’s prominent when it becomes an internet meme). So what separates the twists that make us scream with delight from those that just make us scream, and how can you make sure your book has the right kind of twist?

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