Twisting the ending of a story is like putting icing on a cake, a cherry on top of a sundae, or nuts in brownies. It is the ultimate satisfaction.

In the early days, my first attention went to the opening line, the plot, the climax, and logical ending. (Which is the wrong order, but that’s another article.) Twisting the ending didn't occur to me for many years, and when I finally did it, it was by accident. Now I like to twist almost every ending. If you learn to do it once, you can do it every time thereafter.

The skill of a twisted ending is in misleading the reader to believe something different than what is really going to happen. Sometimes the writers, themselves, don’t know what their ending is going to be. If that is your case, you will have a lot of trouble twisting the ending.

First, think about where your story is going. What is the logical ending? Next, think of an alternative ending that would surprise the reader. Now, find a common denominator between the two endings where you can make the flow similar, and then split the story line off in an unsuspecting direction at the last minute.

One good twist is to take the reader back to the beginning scene of the story. This is called the loop effect. For example, I wrote a story where a man sat in the doctor’s office and listened to patients giving personal information. Knowing when a certain lady would not be home, he went to steal her jewels for the sheer excitement of it. A loop ending would stop with the man in the doctor’s office again, listening for more information.

Another good way to twist uses irony. For example, this same man could have entered the same house to rob it, and another thief slipped in when his back was turned. Thinking the first thief was the homeowner, the second thief shot him. 

Another example of irony: A man rescues a wolf and makes a pet out of it. The government decides the wolf is dangerous and they take the wolf away. He files a lawsuit against the government and wins. (This is a fantasy story.) The man gets the wolf back and the reader thinks the climax has come and gone with the courtroom scene and the reunion with the wolf. The reader is coming to the end of the book, just half a dozen paragraphs left – and he reads that the man takes the wolf for a romp in the snow and the wolf tears his throat out. *shrug

Make your readers think they know the ending, and then pull the rug out from under them. This is what made Alfred Hitchcock so famous. When you watch his old movies, you’ll never figure out who did the dirty deed until the last scene. He was the master of twisted endings.

Have fun doing the twist!  (See below for more writer’s information)