Everyone loves a great plot twist.
They make for a great story and the surprising reveal leaves a lasting impact on the reader.
Even when you sense a plot twist, the author’s grace and skill still keep some elements of surprise until the twist is revealed.
Below we’ve included a list of over 20 plots and short story ideas with a twist to serve as writing prompts for your next story.
You can use these prompts if you’re a new writer, a seasoned one, or anywhere in between.
Feel free to chop and change elements of each prompt to suit your style and preferences better. You can even combine several of the prompts below into a single story.
Later in the article, we’ll look at famous novels whose plot twists have significantly impacted their readers.
If you’re looking for plot twist inspiration before you get started on your outline, check out the ideas below!
Short story ideas with a twist
Here are some plots to get started with your short story:
- Throughout your story, the suspect of a crime seems to be guilty and is perceived to be an evil villain. Towards the end of the story, new information comes to light that proves the original suspect’s innocence.
- A young child makes a birthday wish as she blows the candles out on her cake. The problem is that her birthday wish comes true. At the end of the story, the narrator reveals their identity. They are not the objective, detached narrators you thought they were, but one of the minor characters from the story.
- A detective almost cracks a case wide open, but his investigation is shut down when he approaches his superiors with new information. Unbeknownst to those above him, he takes the investigation into his own hands and discovers that the police captain has a second job.
- Around halfway through the story, it is revealed that the protagonist has a secret second life. They wake up one day and carry on with life as though they had been living it every day, cool as a breeze, even though yesterday they were a completely different person. Unlike your typical story, the strongest character is the first to die.
- A character who gets a bad reputation throughout the story turns out to be an incredibly kind and generous person, sacrificing their reputation knowing they will be disliked so that they can serve the greater good.
- The entire conflict faced by the protagonist has been a setup. They have a stressful day with constant obstacles; all put in place by their friends who want to give them an extra surprise for their birthday by contrasting a stressful day with an unforgettable night.
- A group of friends reveals a series of letters about their friend’s death. The letters have no sender and are written by hand. Eventually, the letters’ clues lead the friends to discover necessary evidence around their friend’s death that brings the case to light. Who wrote the letters? What seems to be a technologically advanced distant future turns out to be the present day in an alternate reality.
- One character has a secret. The neighbors argue and a boy witnesses violence through the window. As a young boy, he doesn’t know what to do with what he sees. As he grows older, the violence continues, and one morning the news breaks that the neighbor’s husband/wife has fallen down the stairs and died. The surviving neighbor seems distraught but gives strange looks and glances to the boy, now a teenager.
- The worst events in history turn out to be the best among the alternatives. A team of time travelers explore the past and experiment with different outcomes during significant political and social changes. Even though the team makes morally sound decisions and reduces the suffering we’ve learned about in history, the universe hates a void and causes suffering elsewhere. It turns out that the way things have worked out so far is the least destructive.
- All of the protagonist’s friends turn out to be purely figments of their imagination. We hear about the main character’s friends throughout the story. They all have names and personalities, but the story is told only from the main character’s perspective. By the end of the story, it is revealed that the friends are not humans but plants and animals. The main character is a man who lives alone in the forest.
- A young woman walking home alone late one evening notices something in the distant bushes. Curious, she approaches to investigate. She pushes away the leaves to reveal a dead body. Worse still, the dead person looks exactly like the woman.
- After years of living in the same routine, feeling stuck in a rut is his 9-5, a man decides to make a change. He intends to quit his job, start his own online business, and move to a tropical island. The problem is that the world glitches when he tries to make these changes. He experiences brain fog and keeps waking up to his morning alarm, even when he intentionally didn’t set it. Soon it is revealed that the man is not only stuck in this rut by choice but that a greater design is involved.
- Members of a luxury space cruise realize that they are not a cruise but a slave ship headed for a colony on a distant planet.
- A story about a child with a lot of potential, love, creativity, and innocence turns out to be the childhood story of a famous serial killer.
- One day, a regular guy discovers that he has superpowers. He makes the best of the day, flying around, saving people from criminals, and behaving like a good Samaritan. Later it is revealed that the day of being a superhero was all a dream. The character wakes up, laughs off his dream, but realizes it wasn’t a dream after all.
- A new family shows up to attend at the start of a new term in middle school. They seem odd to the other middle school students, but they get involved in school activities like sports and art and eventually settle into the new school. Two of the students are still incredibly suspicious of the new family, so they decide to follow them. They wait outside their house at night to peek in the window and discover that the family is not humans but members of an alien race.
- A woman who feels like she has no control over her life learns she’s right – she’s a character in a video game.
Books with twists
Here are some engaging works that exhibit interesting plot twists.
Gone Girl by Gillian Glynn
Nick and Amy are married. The picture of their perfect marriage falls apart when Amy suddenly goes missing on the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick, the husband, is the main suspect in Amy’s disappearance.
As the plot develops, we learn that Amy and Nick have been keeping deep secrets, and Amy’s disappearance becomes even more of a mystery.
Gone Girl is full of unexpected plot twists and turns and will leave a lasting impact on any reader.
“What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?”Gone Girl
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Ten strangers are individually invited to a dinner in a mansion on a private island. Each guest suspects different reasons for their invitation, but none guess correctly. At the dining table, the butler plays a message from the host.
The strangers are told they have all been invited to the island to pay for their wrongs. At the end of the message, one of the guests dies. The rest of the guests are left to figure out why they are here, who the mysterious host is, who is killing people, and how to get off the island.
Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is the classic murder mystery and has since been used or referenced in many stories across all mediums. Most of the Christie’s stories have the best plot twists and you will find them interesting to read.
“When the sea goes down, boats and men will come from the mainland. And they will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.”And Then There Were None
Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
Adam and Amelia are a married couple approaching yet another anniversary. Somewhat dissatisfied with married life and life in general, the two take a trip to Scotland to get away and refresh their relationship.
They win the trip to Scotland through a raffle at work, and when they arrive, their accommodation is a secluded old chapel deep in the woods.
Left all alone with each other, secrets and untold resentments bubble to the surface, leading to unexpected revelations and plot twists that make Alice Feeney’s work unforgettable.
“The reason why a person lies is almost always more interesting than the lie itself.”Rock Paper Scissors
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is an award-winning, page-turning thriller.
The story follows Rachel, whose POV the story is told alongside two other characters.
Rachel takes the same train to work every morning and sees a woman take the same route. The woman has a husband and becomes the object of Rachel’s daydreams.
She imagines this perfect couple and their life together, until one day she sees something horrible as the train passes by the couple’s house.
“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps.”The Girl on the Train
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
We’re breaking the first rule of fight club by talking about it, but Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club takes honorable mention on this list of books with unexpected twists.
The story follows Jack Moore, an everyman who struggles in the capitalist, productivity-focused society in which he lives.
Jack meets rebellious renegade Tyler Durden, with whom he becomes fascinated. Tyler convinces Jack to abandon the models and structures of the life he knows so that he can reclaim his masculine power.
As the plot develops, the lines between Jack and Tyler become blurred, and Jack undergoes an identity crisis and personal transformation. It is revealed that Jack and Tyler have far more in common than Jack could have guessed.
“You are not your job; you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f***ing khakis. You are all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”Fight Club
Hopefully, the good plot twist examples and famous books included above have inspired you to start writing your own stories with a delicious and unexpected twist.
Writing plot twists is incredibly fun and challenging for any writer who is just getting started on story writing. Story development with a twist is not limited to science fiction or thriller stories. You can apply a good plot twist even to a romance novel to make a great story.
What makes the process even more fun is that a plot twist may arise in your mind unexpectedly as you write the entire story, revealing itself to you in the same way you would reveal it to a reader.