Plot Twist Story Prompts: Tell a Tale

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, we tell a tale within a tale.
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Plot twist story prompts aren't meant for the beginning or the end of stories. Rather, they're for forcing big and small turns in the anticipated trajectory of a story. This is to make it more interesting for the readers and writers alike.

Each week, I'll provide a new prompt to help twist your story. Find last week's prompt, True Feelings, here.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Tell a Tale

For today's prompt, have a character tell a story within the story. This is a popular storytelling technique that's been used through the ages to explain things that happened in the past or off camera. But it's also a great way to set the mood or foreshadow future events.

This is how stories are used in Watership Down, by Richard Adams. At times, they help set up the worldview of the rabbits and even contrast one warren from another. But the stories also set up the cleverness of El-ahrairah (sort of a Robin Hood character for the rabbits) with the cleverness of the rabbits themselves, especially Hazel.

(25 Ways to Start a Story.)

But you don't have to have a series of tales like in Watership Down. Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon includes a popular tale called the "Flitcraft Parable" about a man named Flitcraft who suddenly decided to leave his family, job, and golf habit in Tacoma to roam the world. After a few years, he settles back into a new family, job, and golf habit in Spokane (about a four-hour drive from Tacoma). It's an interesting enough story on its own, but the story also gives readers something to discuss within the context of the novel (just Google "Flitcraft story" to see how many do).

Of course, William Shakespeare frequently liked to include a play within a play. It's a great way to mirror the actual story, but it can also be used to contrast with events. And it can definitely move things into a new direction, especially if the story told reveals something about other characters or events. 

Remember: There are many ways to tell a story. It can be revealed in dialogue, sure, but also in a letter, diary, newspaper clipping, or filtered through a secondary source.


Build Your Novel Scene by Scene

If you want to learn how to write a story, but aren't quite ready yet to hunker down and write 10,000 words or so a week, this is the course for you. Build Your Novel Scene by Scene will offer you the impetus, the guidance, the support, and the deadline you need to finally stop talking, start writing, and, ultimately, complete that novel you always said you wanted to write.

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