A truly surprising surprise twist—the kind that makes you gasp or clutch your pearls or reexamine everything you thought you knew about a book—is a thing of beauty, especially when you’re the kind of reader for whom suspending disbelief doesn’t come so naturally. (Who’s with me?)
When it works, I can love it, but in general, I am not a fan of the surprise twist, be it a reversal at the ending or a mid-plot change-up. It often seems lazy, a “give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle” approach to distracting readers from a lack of substance, and when done poorly, it can ruin a book for me. And let’s be honest, there are some surprise twist conceits so played out and/or impossible to pull off that no writer should use them again, ever. I propose we start with these. Be warned: I’m spoiling the surprises in half a dozen books here.