Romance Writers: Do the Twist!

by Tammy Lough
published in Writing

 Parts I and II of this article deals with ideas for writing a plot twist, big and small. Part III will take you through the mechanics, the nuts and bolts of making it happen.

No matter your romance subgenre of choice, adding a twist or ten is a sure-fire way to keep your story out of the boring, predictable zone. Think about it. There is nothing wrong with sweet, low-drama-no-drama romances and plenty of folks desire this gentle read. But for the more adventurous genres, just when your reader thinks they’ve figured out the plot, have it wrapped in pretty paper, and tied with a fancy, overpriced bow, BAM, she gets smacked upside the head with a zinger twist. 

     The best way to write a twist? Don’t think about it, free-write instead. Hang with me for a sec. Nine times out of ten, if you go with your first, or even third idea, your reader has already thought of the same scenario. Your twist will be the identical twist your reader imagined. Instead, put pen to paper and allow your creativity to flow. Set a timer for 20 minutes, take a few deep cleansing breaths, then release your thoughts. Let the words flow until you have at least eight to ten ideas for a twist. Choose the most original idea, one that will surprise, even shock. You have a winner.   

 Make Your Own Luck

     Sometimes you must create your own luck by taking fate and shaking it up a bit. Think about Cinder-Sweeping Ella and her warts-a-plenty stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella. Did Ella receive a cherished invitation to the Princes’ “seeking a worthy bride ball”?  Ella’s fairy godmother sashays into her cottage and one flick of a magic wand blankets Ella in more sparkles than Cher decked out in Bob Mackie. What other way would a cinder-sweeper meet a prince if not for crashing his ball? Outcome: Happily Ever After for the Prince & Ella.

A Fib For Now

     We reserve this fib for jealousy. Scenario: Enter a gal with letting go issues who realizes her ex will attend the same upcoming event. Ugh. Her mind goes into Rolodex mode, flipping through names for potential escorts.

     But what happens the night of the event when her tummy fills with the flitter-flutter of butterfly wings and feelings more than a simple attraction raises for her escort? She doesn’t know if her hired date is a convincing actor playing an attentive flame or truly echoing her burning embers. Does she present him with an academy award or a condom?

Hopeless Romantic Seizes Opportunity 

     An admirer, perhaps a cabbie, has illusions of winning the affections of a woman he transports on a near daily basis. She suffers an event requiring a trip to the hospital and leaves a personal item behind. The cabbie is mistaken for her boyfriend/fiancé by her enormous family when he returns said item and finds the damsel of his dreams in a coma.    

Can we spell opportunist? Does he clarify a case of mistaken identity when she wakes with amnesia, or does he remain a cad and hope/pray/sell his soul to the devil for a chance at love?

The “I fell out of love but don’t want to hurt your feelings,” Fib.

     So, rather than tell the truth and suffer the pain in his voice, wait for him to screw up, maybe even set him up to screw up, and then pretend that is the reason for the breakup. It’s all your fault, Sasquatch, and if not for your Neanderthal behavior we would have lived our lives in nauseating bliss.

Misinterpreting Truth for a Farfetched Lie

     Sometimes, a new flame really is too good to be true. You are eons past your first rodeo and this cowboy thinks you’re as dumb as a steaming pile of horse apples. He feeds you tales of his 2,000-acre cattle ranch where flowers sprout from the derriere of dairy cows. But then you visit one day and low and behold you could pluck enough butt daisies for a centerpiece.

The Undead

     What about the character who merely appears to have died but resurrects later at a most inopportune time? The plot thickens as your grieving widow listens with a gleam in her eye during the reading of the will, while the so-called corpse takes a seat in the back.

The Sociopath’s Lie

     The sociopath has no conscience and lies to manipulate another into a relationship. How will your protagonist discover the nature of so-called love? Sociopath’s like to control and manipulate their environment. How will she free herself from the blue-speckled stew pot? I sense the writing of a romantic psycho-thriller.

The Assumed Lie

     Your character’s new boyfriend misunderstood her job description. Oopsie. No, you do not hold a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry but you mop the floor after the staff leaves for the day. A doozie of this scale has the potential to blow up like a nitrogen blimp. Think Hindenburg. Does she set the guy straight or continue the farce and tell the guy his incisor looks cavityous?

Watch for the continuation of Romance Writers; Do the Twist Parts II & III. Until then… Writers Write!

Tammy Lough is an award-winning author who loves writing romance and creating unique characters who burst with personality and frequent sprinklings of humor. She writes a monthly column, On the Back Page with Tammy, for Saturday Writers, a Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild. She is an active member of the Missouri Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and the Missouri Writers Guild. You can connect with Tammy on her website

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