Skip to main content

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character give or face an ultimatum.

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, Going Rogue, here.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

For today's prompt, have a character give or face an ultimatum. The nice thing about an ultimatum is that it automatically creates tension for multiple characters (and the entire story as a result). By its very nature, an ultimatum puts the person giving the demand on the spot as needing something...or else. So let's start there.

(6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense.)

The character giving the ultimatum has probably been building up to this point. Maybe they've been covering for another character's substance abuse problem while trying to get them help. They've been patient, but one transgression too many (or with very high stakes) has pushed the character to the point at which they say, "You need to quit doing X, or I'm done helping you out." The person giving the ultimatum probably still wants success for the person receiving it, but they've been burned before.

Meanwhile, the character receiving the ultimatum has to decide whether they care or not. They've probably been doing something a certain way for a reason, whether that reason's a good or bad one. Going back to substance abuse, maybe that's their coping mechanism. Or maybe they perform dangerous tricks to make money to provide for their family. Or there's some other reason for their behavior that makes sense in their mind. 

Regardless, the ultimatum forces the character receiving the ultimatum to decide: Do I keep doing what I've been doing? Or do I change my ways? The internal conflict should be real. And the character giving the ultimatum will have to decide how to react as well. Do they really cut the character off if they fail to act appropriately? Do they really trust the character if it seems they do act appropriately? And what happens if there's a relapse further on down the road?

So have a character give an ultimatum and see what happens next.

*****

40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Your Stories in New Directions, by Robert Lee Brewer

Have you hit a wall on your work-in-progress? Maybe you know where you want your characters to end up, but don’t know how to get them there. Or, the story feels a little stale but you still believe in it. Adding a plot twist might be just the solution.

Click to continue.

Writer's Digest Interview | Marlon James Quote

The Writer's Digest Interview: Marlon James

Booker Prize–winning author Marlon James talks about mythology and world-building in his character-driven epic Moon Witch, Spider King, the second book in his Dark Star Trilogy in this interview from the March/April 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: New Podcast Episode, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our newest podcast episode, your chance to be published, and more!

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

Author Anat Deracine found her agent at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Now she’s sharing what she’s learned to help other writers become authors. Here are her 5 tips for successfully pitching literary agents in person.

Tips for Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience

8 Tips for Reading Your Poetry in Front of an Audience

Poet's Market editor and published poet Robert Lee Brewer shares eight tips for reading your poetry in front of an audience.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.