Write Those Scenes You Don’t Think Belong In Your Book

Say “yes” to the ideas that make you shake your head “no.”


Last week, I wrote a scene that both surprised and amazed me. NOT because I’m the best writer ever or because it’s the greatest piece of prose a human has ever written (nope and, uh, NOPE), but because I never planned on writing it at all.

In fact, the moment the idea wedged its way into my head, I immediately tried to reject it.

Without any spoilers (because I guess you never know), my favorite character does something bad. Really bad. She knows it’s wrong, but she does it anyway. I already know that, if I ever get to the revisions stage of this book, I’m going to have to make this scene even less sympathetic toward this beloved character than it already is. Which breaks my heart. A good sign, but still.

I did not want to write this scene. I did not think it really had a place in this story, originally. Yet somehow, the moment I started writing it, I knew it was a keeper. The basic framework of it, anyway.

This happens a lot – a writer composing part of a book or script they hardly recognize as being theirs. But very rarely do we notice that it’s these unexpected, initially rejected ideas – and having the courage to give them a chance – that turn an okay story into a really good one.

The reason you don’t believe you can pull it off, or don’t think it’s a good idea, is because you’re used to holding yourself back. I’ve had this problem since the day I started writing, so don’t think it’s something bad. We don’t even realize we’re telling ourselves, “You could never get away with that.” Oh, yes you can. You’re a writer. You can get away with murder (FIGURATIVELY), and so, so much more.

I have found over the years that it’s the scenes I don’t want to write, that I’m afraid to write, that I don’t think my family/friends will approve of or my future readers would like, that end up becoming the most important passages in every story I have ever written.

We try to hard to write “good” things. It’s not good because it meets a certain set of criteria. It’s good because it comes from somewhere deep within our souls, only accessible through the words we write even when we aren’t sure they’re the right ones.

This is why I always advocate for, even though I struggle with, thinking about what you would expect to happen in a story and then flipping it around so the opposite happens. Not EVERY story works like this – I just read one of those holiday romances that was predictable, but I was still glad it turned out the way I secretly wanted to. But twists and surprises and those “wait hold on what just happened” moments are what keep pages turning – for your reader AND you.

Let it happen. It could go wrong and you’ll never end up using it in later drafts. It could also go very right, and create a story you (and perhaps a future agent) will be proud of.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Essentials of an Effective Plot Twist

PLOT TWIST: the writer is actually the villain. :O


You love and hate them – those twists and turns in your favorite stories that make you want to throw your beloved book across the room. It’s one thing to read them … but to write them effectively is both a challenge and a worthwhile creative adventure.

Here are a few essential elements to consider when working a plot twist into your novel.

A character acting or reacting in an unexpected way

Up until this point in your story, you should have developed your main characters enough so that a reader has clear expectations as to how they should behave in specific situations. It’s now your job to completely disregard your reader’s expectations – purposefully, of course – and have a particular character behave in a way that is, at least from the reader’s point of view, completely out of character.

We expect Jo (Little Women) to agree to marry Laurie when he asks. They’re good friends, they’re adorable together and WE JUST WANT ALL OUR DREAMS TO COME TRUE. But she turns him down. We might get the feeling she would say no, but we still expect them to get engaged because they clearly care about each other. It’s unexpected … but it ends up working out just fine in the end.

Circling back to a previous point of foreshadowing or backstory

Foreshadowing is possibly one of the more challenging, but extremely rewarding, methods of subtly building up to a plot twist. It’s hard to be subtle, especially when you know what’s going to happen, even though your audience shouldn’t (yet). But giving small hints creates intrigue, bringing small pieces of the plot puzzle to form, and as soon as that plot twist hits, all those pieces fall (satisfyingly, maybe) into place.

A little background can also help, as a means of foreshadowing or on its own. Backstory can instill its significance in one short sentence or a series of flashbacks. Laurie and Amy, when Amy is still far too young to marry, discuss love and marriage (sort of, and briefly) on their way to Aunt March. We don’t necessarily take that to mean they’re going to get married to each other years later. BUT THEY DO. It’s a quick but significant scene. We might even forget about it once it’s over. But not for long.

Completely destroying the mental and emotional well-being of your audience

In a good way? In a bad way? Doesn’t matter. This is not the time to be considerate of others’ feelings. If you can’t get an exaggerated emotional reaction out of a reader as a result of your plot twist, you’re not doing it right. Don’t tell me you’ve never called out in frustration or felt dead inside after a book, movie or TV show completely ruined you for life. You’ve likely never forgotten that feeling. That is how your readers need to feel.

How do you achieve this? Have characters turn on each other. Reveal their true identities or personalities. Set someone up for success and then have them fail, or vise versa. This doesn’t mean you always have to end a story with an unhappy feel; a plot twist doesn’t have to come at the very end. The idea is to keep the audience invested in a story. If it isn’t turning out the way they want, they’re more likely to continue reading, holding onto the hope that maybe things will all turn out OK in the end. It won’t always – but that really depends on the story itself, whether or not there are multiple parts in a series, etc.

Not every reader enjoys this kind of storytelling, but as a writer, you might find it’s too fun not to at least try. I don’t know about you, but I’m delightfully impressed with Disney’s new era of animated films … which, thus far as I’ve seen, have included plot twists I never saw coming (I’m talking to you, Zootopia). It’s the kind of thing you hate to watch but love to experience. Stay in that mindset as you’re setting up your own twisted, slightly evil plots. You’re going to fall in love with them, I can guarantee it.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Why Do Your Characters Seem So Real?

They’re not real people … are they?


Have you ever stopped in the middle of writing a story and realized you’re going to miss your characters when their story ends? They feel like real people, sometimes … is that normal?

This isn’t weird at all. It happens to a lot of writers. If you wanted to, you could have an entire conversation with someone about all the ridiculous things your characters are up to in your book, as if they were actual people. That’s a good sign – and there are a few good reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to admit your characters are basically your imaginary friends.

The more time you spend with them, the more relatable they become

The fictional personality phenomenon is the only way I am truly able to explain why this happens. Your relationship with your characters exists – and develops – because deep down, these are people you want to spend time with. These are situations you want to observe … and, admit it, manipulate, because you are the storyteller and therefore you are god. The longer you spend on a story involving a specific set of characters, the less imaginary they become to you. That’s why I’m an advocate for not rushing through writing a novel (NaNo doesn’t count – that’s DIFFERENT!). You have to take your time. Some of the best stories are those written by authors who have deeper relationships with the fictional people they create.

They are exaggerations of people you know, and extensions of yourself

Don’t even try to deny this one. Your characters’ personalities, likes, dislikes – they’re all based loosely off of people you know, and a little bit of yourself, too. That’s why hanging out with your characters almost feels like hanging out with real-world friends. You understand why they do the things they do. You know what they’re going to think, do and say even before they do it. What makes stories truly intriguing is knowing that there’s a little bit of truth in every element of fiction – and it’s up to the reader to decide what they believe and what they don’t. Only you, the writer, will be able to see a character from every possible angle – and that’s what makes them real to you.

You depend on them to bring you story to life

Not just your story – the collective “your” – your story, AND your characters’ story. This is a partnership. There are going to be points at which your characters don’t want to do what you’re telling them to do. They’ll also push for doing things you haven’t planned for them to do. Your story isn’t going to be the best it can be unless you and your characters work together. Compromise. Let your story go off in directions you had no idea it could go. That’s adventure. That’s the kind of story a person wants to sit down to read.

So here’s to the characters we know, have yet to meet, love, hate, need, don’t want around, wish we were, and never will be. Sometimes they get on your nerves, but your stories would be nothing without them.

Hey! If you enjoyed this topic, I wrote a whole (short) book about it. Just putting that out there.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.