Twists vs. Reveals

On Plot Twists and Reveals

Most stories do a strip tease, a slow revelation of various plots and sub-plots, motives and betrayals, a hint of where things may be going…and then, perhaps, you get a bit of the unexpected.

The former are reveals; the latter are plot twists.

Reveals are fun! They are the moment when everything makes sense and all the puzzle pieces slot neatly. Often called an Inevitable Surprise, they are the payoff for a careful reader who loves a mystery or enjoys seeming chaos falling together like a puzzle rewinding into wholeness. Some reveals even become sayings that have worked their way into popular culture, such as, “Soylent Green is people!”

In the Harry Potter books, there are so many reveals: that Snape loved Harry’s mother, that Alistair Moody had been kidnapped and impersonated by Barty Crouch, that Remus Lupin was a werewolf, and that Snape had really killed Dumbledore at the latter’s request.

Here are some of the reveals in The Lord of the Rings: that Strider the Ranger was really an heir of kings, that Saruman had fallen to treachery, and at the very end (of the books, not the movie) you find out who was wearing the three enchanted—and up until now, invisible—powerful elven rings. Once this is revealed, you can instantly see how those rings were used in the conflict. And of course, the reveal about how the One Ring was finally destroyed made it all make sense, and showed why Bilbo’s and Frodo’s kindnesses and mercy had really been a strength.

Sometimes the lead-in can be quite long. CJ Cherryh has a doozy of a reveal in her seventeenth book of her Foreigner Series, Visitor. And it was worth every word up to that point!

As for plot twists, I’ll mention some of the notable ones in the genre, but if you haven’t read these stories or seen these movies, you’ll need to avert your eyes. Because when someone hollers, “Spoiler Alert!” these twists are exactly what they mean.

Luke, I am your father, or  Leia, to Han (about Luke Skywalker): He’s my brother. These are good examples of a plot twist I call, Wow- They’re Related ™! Another example is finding out who the brother is in the movie, The Accountant. They’re usually spectacular twists, and usually used at the end of a book or movie.

Then there are the plot twists that center on things not being what they seem.  Such as when Jim Carey’s character realizes he is on The Truman Show, when the child psychologist realizes that he is also dead in The Sixth Sense, or when Orson Scott Card’s title character realizes it was not a game all along at the end of Ender’s Game.

As you can see, plot twists are very often reveals. We have a few of them in this edition.  Enjoy.

– Wendy S. Delmater, Editor, Abyss & Apex

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