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The Big Reveal

JULY 21, 2021

Charlie Donlea’s secrets to creating a memorable plot twist.

Most writers will tell you that the process of creating a novel is very lonesome. Especially the early drafts, when it’s too soon to ask for feedback from First Readers. Authors are off on their own wondering if the story they're creating is coherent or interesting, and if all the details will come together in the end. Those early drafts always fill me with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt about my capabilities as a storyteller. I constantly question whether I've crafted a story with twists and surprises that will fool the reader, or if I've left too many obvious clues that will give everything away. Although I don't place all my satisfaction in one basket, I must admit that I do love fooling the reader and delivering a surprise ending they never saw coming.

So here are my rules for creating surprises and plot twists:

  • No deceiving the reader. I, as the writer, cannot lie to the reader in order to create the mystery of the story. Any misdirection must come honestly and by allowing the reader to assume certain things about the story or the characters that, at that moment in the book, are perfectly reasonable to believe.

  • The villain has to be part of the story. The worst stories for me as a reader are when the big reveal comes and the bad guy is a little mentioned, tertiary character that was never on my radar because I never knew much about him or because he was never a significant part of the story.

  • Finally, if my efforts fail and the reader sees the twist coming… well, I can’t be upset. As the author, I simply ran into a skillful and astute reader. But ultimately, I got them to the end of the book and kept their interest. It’s still a win all around!

“Chilling and suspenseful. I was gripped from the first page.”

—Candice Fox, bestselling author of CRIMSON LAKE

Two women – one, the sister of a missing girl; the other, a victim who escaped – come together to unmask a killer in this heart-stopping thriller with an ending you'll never see coming. From #1 International Bestselling author, Charlie Donlea, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN is available anywhere books are sold.

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