Plot twists occur in movies and novels when there is an unexpected turn of events. They are a tool used by most writers of narrative works. I think they may also happen in life.

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Plot twists change the trajectory of a story. It becomes different. Sometimes an author or scriptwriter ‘foreshadows’ the plot twists. The plot twists still come as a surprise, although the seeds have been sown earlier in the work.

Last night I watched the final episode in the excellent miniseries,The Principal, on SBS TV. The drama revolves around the new principal of a dysfunctional Sydney boys’ school. There are frequent plot twists in each episode.

Each episode concludes with a highly dramatic, even shocking, new event. The miniseries as a whole makes uncomfortable viewing. This is particularly so in  light of the recent shooting of a Sydney police staff member by a fifteen-year-old schoolboy. But the plot twists brought me back anxiously to the TV set for four episodes.

A quick Google search provides stacks of information about plot twists. They come in many forms. Writers use them in different ways and for different effects. They help to sustain the dramatic interest in the work.

Personal plot twists

In the last few weeks, I’ve begun to dust off a novel I wrote years ago. There are 65 000 words of a first draft languishing on my computer, waiting for attention. It’s one of several new projects I have in mind. I’ve begun to think seriously about what the novel needs. What is lacking. Plot twists! That’s what’s missing.

So I’ve been reading widely about plotting. Every novel I open undergoes my ‘plot twist test’.

Like everyone’s, my life has had the odd problem. The times when nothing went to plan. When a smooth-sailing patch was disrupted. Decisions that turned out poorly. Jobs that went pear-shaped. A home invasion.

There have been major personal tragedies. Deaths of two babies, my parents, friends. Unexpected abandonment. Each event changed my life. Each one left an impression. Some left deep scars.

How can a woman get to my age without working out something so simple? Those events were  plot twists in the narrative of my life.

I began this week with a one-kilometre swim. It was, I thought, a good beginning a few very busy weeks. I thought there was no time to fit anything else in. But before I went inside, I stepped backwards off a curb and pulled a muscle in my calf.

My leg has graduated to being taped. One of life's minor plot twists
My leg has graduated to being taped. One of life’s minor plot twists

Never mind that this is the week one of our bathrooms was to be renovated. There’s been mess, noise and dust. Plans disrupted?  More like a minor plot twist!

I’ve had time to think while I’ve sat with my leg iced, elevated and resting. I’ve resolved in future to (try to) embrace the inevitable disruptions, disturbances and tragedies as essential to the narrative of my life. They’re plot twists.

4 replies on “Plot twists in real life”

  1. Ah life continues to surprise us even now!! Perhaps we ought to seek out twists in the plot more often and maximise them??

    I accept your invitation to book launch with much pleasure.
    I will be accompanied by my faithful carer!!


    1. Not a good idea to maximise real life plot twists, Rosie. They have to be what they are and we have to embrace them. Or so I’m starting to think. Just thinking they are part of a Divine Plan makes sense. I think that is probably something I learned from your mother, God less her. She was so wise. I think I’ve left my run too late to copy her wisdom.

      SOOOOO pleased you and Kevin are coming to the launch. You are part of the original story, and the writing of it. Looking forward to seeing you there.

  2. I found it hard to insert plot twists into my novel after the first draft. In the first draft, because I’m a bit of a pantser, I could change what my characters did from one chapter to the next. But once I had the story written, adding a plot twist meant a rewrite. I’ve done it, but it’s not easy work!

    Good luck with your novel, and wishing you a speedy recovery to full health. xx

    1. Thanks, Louise. I am now weight bearing and walking a bit. Such a relief.

      I haven’t been really conscious of plot twists until quite recently. I feel development as a writer has been retarded! And maybe I’ve lived on a diet of ‘literary’ fiction most of my adult life. Now I’ve started reading differently, and certainly watching movies and TV differently. I’m quite excited by the concept of plot twists. The other good think is my first draft of the novel (s) are truly Ernest Hemmingway shit, so anything I do to improve the one I’m going to work on will be a giant step forward. I would abandon it, but I’ve done that before with writing and it doesn’t work. The damned writing haunts me for years. This time, I like the theme and characters so I’ll have another go.

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