One thing all stories have is an end – surprise twists, cliffhangers, inevitable fates, and formulaic plots – all lead to an end of some kind. A kind of twist ending (which isn’t a twist except to the poor deprived soul who thinks they’re clever) is a story ending with the main character waking up. Ta-da, it never really happened! We (the authors, in our infinite wisdom) were just messing with you.
* * * *
Oliver gasped, sitting up in his bed, the sheets twisted in a knot around his right leg. His pillow hung precariously over the edge of the mattress. Heart racing, he examined the familiar shadows of his bedroom for a sign of the horror that he’d faced. The comforting bulk of his tattered recliner, the moonlit gleam of his painted dresser, the hills and valleys of the dirty and almost-clean clothes on his floor. Everything was it its place.
“It was only a dream,” he whispered into the darkness.
And then a monster formed of the screams of frustrated readers broke through the window, scattering glass everywhere, and bit his head off.
* * * *
Have you ever read a story like that? One where you got to the ending, and felt a little violent about the way you’d been mislead? Not a clever twist, but a disappointment?
Let’s not dwell on that, though, and instead think about the well written twists. For example, some writers interweave the protagonist’s dream world and the story’s reality so well that the character can’t tell their dreams from reality, and neither can the reader. It leaves the reader as dizzied as the character is, like riding a roller coaster. You don’t have to worry about keeping your popcorn, hot dog, and cotton candy down, either. Unless you have a very excitable stomach…
When you read a story like that, the author keeps you guessing as you try to figure out where it’s going. And no one has to be fed to the monsters, except the butler, because he probably killed someone.