Writing a good twist.

If you enjoy reading a tale with a good twist, as much as I do, you’ve probably wondered how the writer did it. To me, a good twist changes the story, and I believe readers love it when you do that.

Is it possible to “engineer” this kind of a twist repeatably?

Maybe it is.

A few years ago, Jack Tyler was hosting writing contests on Writing.Com, and he was also helping new writers, like me, with sage writing advice. So, as a small tribute, I wrote the following story. I thought “Blimprider” would get a kick out of being a character in the story.

Rule Seven

He was infamous: a well-loved author . . . a celebrated author, and he was about to die.


The job was assigned to Mitch in the usual way, but the bounty was fat. Real fat. Two-million-dollars fat. Someone out there wanted this target neutralised badly and was willing to pay the price.

The decrypted message in his in-box, had a short life span: thirty seconds. Then it would encrypt itself again. After that, even a God with a quantum computer wouldn’t be able to read it.

So, he took a screenshot. He knew it was against his employers’ rules—rules enforced by death supposedly—but he didn’t care. He’d saved implicating evidence many times without any consequences.

How the hell would they ever find out anyway? he thought.

He read the saved message on the screen carefully. In the background his laptop’s central processing unit sent a hexadecimal string to a server on the other side of the world.

He entered: ‘Writing.Com’ in his search field, as per the instructions, and clicked on the first result.

Wow, he thought, a whole community of writers. Thousands of them. Who’d have thought?

Mitch needed an account if he was to get close to this man—going by the username ‘Blimprider’—and hunt him down.

Mitch needed a new handle.

Tommy Gun, he thought. That would be funny.

But this was a serious job for serious money. So, he chose: ‘T. J. Gunn.’

He created a new account, logged in, and searched for Blimprider, finding him quick smart.

Hmm, he thought. A renowned author, eh? Isn’t he a busy boy? Even runs a writing contest.

He grabbed his car keys and headed for the door. He needed an old book of short stories. A book that hadn’t seen the internet and wasn’t famous.

Two hours later he was back at his laptop. He looked at the next writing prompt: ‘Winter Holiday.’ Flipping through the brown pages of Dudley Hope’s short stories, he found one called: ‘Ramage’s Holiday.’ It was last published in 1963.

He copied part of the first paragraph into an online plagiarism-search website: ‘The holiday supper had been a great success: Nelson had kept them all amused, teasing both Giana and Ramage, and in turn being teased by Pitti, who was obviously fascinated by the little man’s vivacity.’

Zero hits.


It was after he’d won the fifth contest, consecutively, when the e-mails rolled in.

One from a guy called Peter Foster: ‘Hello, Mr. Gunn. We are a medium-sized literary magazine based in New York . . .’

Mitch deleted it.

And the next one was from Blimprider. It read: ‘“Ramage’s Letter” was terrific. I loved the way you used the actual letter to fill your readers in on what’s been going on. You painted the picture so well when he finds the missive pinned to his door. I really love it when you isolate a character, giving him actions that no one sees . . .’

Jackpot, Mitch thought, with a snigger.

And he replied: ‘Thank you, Blimprider. I haven’t written in thirty years, but now that Harry (my husband) has passed away, and my children have stuck me in this horrible nursing home, I have plenty of time. This computer screen hurts my old eyes after a while. So, when I’m not writing, I just stare out the window at the free people.’

The reply from Blimprider was almost instant. It read: ‘Oh, TJ . . .  My God . . . I’m so sorry about Harry and your circumstances. Perhaps we can help each other. You could help me by beta-reading my new Anthology. Maybe your mind could escape that horrid place for a time. I’ve compiled a collection of short stories, set in the same town, with repeating characters showing up from time to time, evolving. . .’

Mitch guffawed and wrote: ‘How exceedingly kind. I’d love to help. Could you mail me the manuscript?’

Blimprider wrote: ‘Sure. Be easier on those old eyes . . .’

Mitch punched his fist in the air. “Yessss!”

And that’s why I’m the smartest hitman in the world, he thought. Clueless bugger!

Once he had Blimprider’s address, the man was dead meat.


He only had to wait a week for the manuscript, and sure enough, Blimprider’s address was on it. Mitch’s fingers tingled with excitement, as he tore the package open.

What the hell? he thought.

It was a thick manuscript. A manuscript of blank, white pages. His knees buckled. He fell onto his back. He stared at the white powder on his fingers, chest constricting.


His dying eyes read the cover note: ‘Rule seven. No screenshots. Goodbye Mitch. LMAO. Blimprider.’


As you can see there are two stories here. Story one is about a hitman who receives a job from his employer. The hitman needs to con the target into revealing his address, and that’s it. Game over.

Story two is about the employer who seeks to rid himself of this hitman who keeps breaking the rules and con the hitman into receiving a deadly package.

If it helps, by all means write an outline for both stories and put them side by side. The goal is to lead the reader into believing story one, but you must also play story two in the background, or at least hint at it several times. That way, when the reader gets to the end, they’ll say, “That changes everything. I should have seen that coming.”

And that’s all there is to it. You can apply this technique to many stories. I hope my explanation made sense. Thanks for reading.

3 responses to “Writing a good twist.”

  1. Great insight into the craft of writing, Tim. At the heart of the twist is foreshadowing, as you mentioned. Not enough foreshadowing, and you risk losing your readers when the twist is delivered. Too much foreshadowing and the twist becomes obvious. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s profound, Tim! Very generous of you to give away your technique of outlining two stories then meshing them together. I don’t believe I ever would have thought of that on my own… Well, I know I wouldn’t, because I never did in over half a century of writing. If I ever start up again, I’ll have to give it a try.

    By the way, I enjoyed very much my turn at being the star of a story, and am thrilled to see it here in print again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Foreshadowing. Thank you, Thomas. Without it all you have is a surprise ending or a reveal, and it’s nowhere near as satisfying for the reader.

    Give it a try, Jack. Writing the two outlines and placing them side by side was the way I figured it out. I guess that’s how my mind works. I’ve actually managed it without outlining, but that was just an unreliable fluke.

    I’m happy the post made sense to you guys.

    Liked by 1 person

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