Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


I’ve got a bone to pick with M. Night Shyamalan.

The other night I was excitedly telling The Boy about my idea for a new novel (Rule One: don’t tell people your idea for a new novel, because they will pick it apart and make you doubt it. Just write it and show them when it’s finished).

“But what’s the twist?” he asked. “People expect a twist.”

See, I blame Mr. Shyamalan for this. Before The Sixth Sense, all people wanted was a satisfying ending. But now we have to have a “twist”. And those twists have become so ridiculous and contrived that even the twist itself is predictable. How many times have you watched a movie where someone is being tormented and thought, “I bet that victim is tormenting herself!” and been right?

When Agatha Christie did it, it was shocking. When Shyamalan did it in The Sixth Sense, it was brilliant. But when he repeated the same type of twist in every movie he’s made since? Not so brilliant.

Am I wrong for thinking a good story well told is enough? Do I really need to make my protagonist and my villain the same person to satisfy the reading public? I certainly hope not, because I’m one of the few who simply didn’t buy the ending of Fight Club. It was inconceivable that he was beating the crap out of himself all along.

If any of my stories end up having a twist, it will be where the characters naturally led me. It won’t be some cliched gimmick I came up with to “fool” people and land my clever ass on the best-seller list. Screw that, Shalamala-ding-dong.

How do you feel about twists in your writing? Do you consciously feel the need to add a twist to your stories?

What was the most ridiculous twist you’ve ever found in a book or movie? Fight Club has to be number one for me.

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  1. Javier

    Your post reminded me of a movie: A Serious Man. There is no need for ‘twists’: a good story is enough to satisfy any reader. Agatha Christie did not have ‘twists’, it was more about suspects and the work to eliminate one by one until the author of the crime was exposed. I do enjoy the ‘peeling of the onion’ that a good mystery novel provides.

  2. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment, Javier. It gives me hope. I haven’t seen A Serious Man, but I’ll check it out.

    When I referenced Agatha Christie, I was referring to the time her narrator was the killer (or the time her first victim was the killer). Those are the kind of twists that are used and abused today, to the point they’ve become a cliche.

  3. Laura Best

    Hi Holli, Nice to see that you’re blogging aagain. 🙂

    I write a story, most times there isn’t a twist unless the story seems to need it. Personally, I’m for a satisfying ending, I’m not a “twist” kind of reader. I say tell a good story, that’s the important thing.

  4. Story Teller

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for your comment and your kind words. I completely agree…tell a good story well, and there isn’t any need for a gimmick.

    I hope you’re doing well!


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