Tuesday, December 18, 2007


pair-uh-puh-TEE-uh\noun Gk

From Merriam-Webster's 11th Edition: :a sudden or unexpected reversal of circumstance or situation especially in a literary work.

One of the best things a suspense novelist (or any novelist for that matter) can do is give their reader a surprise or two. Surprises keep interest up and the reading stays fun.

But throwing curves can boomerang if not handled well. Any sudden flips you create have to be plausible, and work for the story.

As a reader, there's nothing more frustrating than feeling like you've been relegated to an outsider position (within the pages of your very "own" novel) because you don't understand what just happened, and you're pretty sure you never will.

Brainstorm peripeteia options. Pick the best of the worst. The one that throws the biggest curve, creates the most surprise or delight. But make sure it could actually happen. Fictionally, that is.

It's all better with friends.


  1. This is really important to do. I like the movies "Signs" and "The Village" because of those great twists. I like "The sixth sense" for the same reason. That movie I rewound and played a second time because I was so shocked.

    That's what I want in my suspense books. I want a person to go "Huh-how did they do that?"

    One trap I have to avoid is always having the SAME twist. Then the reader starts watching. On the one hand it can become a game because they're guessing who the red herring is. On the other hand, I worry it would distract from my story.

    Great insight!

  2. Great post, Peg.

    Another issue is twists that really could happen but come off as unbelievable because they haven't been set up properly. Sometimes great twists necessitate going back and weaving in setup over several scenes—well worth the effort. :-)