Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Discussion Post: Solving Twists

I read a lot of books with some kind of major twist or mystery as part of their plot. Whether it's fantasy, SciFi, or your standard mystery novels they all have a big reveal that attempts to shock the readers and clues along the way that force me to theorize and wonder what's going to happen. Over the years I've become pretty good at solving those mysteries. I can pick up on the subtle clues, avoid suspecting red herrings, and solve the twists both big and small. I blame all the episodes of Scooby Doo I watched as a child! It's honestly more of a surprise these days for me not to solve the twist.

I'm not saying this to make myself sound like a brilliant detective, I'm no Sherlock Holmes, I'm saying this because even though I've basically figured out the ending, it doesn't ruin anything for me, and here's why.

When It Works

 1.) It's Just a Theory 
If a mystery is well done I may have found a few clues and developed an elaborate theory as to the twist, but I won't know for sure until the very end. Maybe I'm not very confident of my theory or maybe I have narrowed it down to two possible culprits, either way I want to keep reading to prove myself right. I want to find more clues or for validation of my theory. That "I WAS RIGHT" moment is always satisfying!

Example: Don't Look Back by Jennifer Armentrout (which I finished last night)

 2.) Small Twists Along the Way 
So if a book is well-written it doesn't just have one major reveal it has a bunch of smaller reveals leading up to the big one. This is often the case for a lot of Fantasy and Sci Fi novels. For me I'm  often so distracted by finding clues to the big mystery that the smaller ones catch me off guard.

Example: Sekret by Lindsay Smith

3.) The Manner in Which They Solve the Mystery
This is especially true for straight up mysteries but I often enjoy figuring out the twists in a book if I am along for the investigation with the characters. While they are off hunting for clues we are along for the ride as readers so we are able to hunt for them too or pick up on the subtleties that the characters may have missed. I enjoy this so much more than a left field reveal that's only purpose is shock factor.

Example: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

4.) The Rest of the Plot is Thrilling
In a lot of cases the mystery or the search for the truth ends up finding our fearless hero or heroine in a position where the culprit doesn't want to be found out and is doing anything in their power to make sure they don't uncover the truth. In more traditional mysteries this results in things like car chases, explosions, and brushes with death. In Fantasy and SciFi novels there is usually something more going on than the twist at the end. Therefore if there is more to keep me interested past the mystery then the book is still going to be enjoyable.

Example: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When It Doesn't Work

1.) Dramatic Irony
I am not a fan of this literary technique. When something is perfectly obvious to me as the reader either because of something that happened earlier in the book or because of the synopsis of the book and then it is served up as the major twist of the book it's extremely annoying and insulting to my intelligence. For most of books where this happens I find myself annoyed and frustrated that the characters haven't figured things out yet. I don't like knowing things that the characters don't know it makes it hard to empathize with them.

Example: Dracula by Bram Stoker

2.) Ignorant Characters
Plus dramatic irony makes the characters look stupid, another bookish pet peeve of mine. But worse than that is characters who aren't even trying to find the truth or solve the mysteries. If something seems completely suspicious and they are paying no attention to it's suspicions and then it's revealed as a big twist at the end of the book not only am I thinking "DUH!" but I'm thinking how idiotic the characters seemed for not realizing it sooner.

Example: Frozen by Erin Bowman

2.) Dues Ex Machina
But even worse than dramatic irony and stupid characters is this most dreaded literary technique. It's a plot device where the seemingly unsolvable mystery or problem has a random and sudden solution that is all too convenient. If I have spent an entire book looking for clues and theorizing a murderer or mystery and you throw at me some left field convenient solution I am going to hate your book. I'm not opposed to things like the tell-all where the culprit confesses their crime but if they confess without the hero figuring it out themselves, NOT COOL. This is even worse in fantasy novels where things are solved by magic or an elaborate part of the world !

Example: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein

Honorable Mention to a Few Books I Didn't Solve the Twists On
1.) These Broken Stars by Aime Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
2.) The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
3.) Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

How do you feel about solving the twists when you're reading? Do you like it or not? What are some books that you predicted the twists and you still enjoyed the book? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I'm very similar to you - I'm always trying to solve the plot twists and mysteries :) And I find more often that not, I'm right or very close to it. But it also doesn't bother me! Because some books are just so clever. I was sooo close to being right about We Were Liars although I didn't predict the COMPLETE reveal. But it was such a wel-paced and thoughtful reveal, I still loved it.

    Convenient magic in fantasy books usually doesn't bother me too much, because I can accept that as a condition of the world although I suppose it might bother me depending on how well (or poorly) it was executed.

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

  2. I starred this post last week and am only now getting around to commenting - sorry! Just wanted to say that I loved reading this, and I totally agree with what you've said. I was so annoyed in The Return of the King when the magical ghost army showed up and saved the day. What was the point of all the battles and deaths leading up to that point?? Arg. It's wonderful when the mystery works, though.