Make It Twisted

In my post that took a look behind the story of Little Red Ball, I made the statement that good flash fiction ends with a twist. Flash fiction doesn’t have time to make readers care about the characters too awfully much. You can throw some detail and back story in but, when you’re working in the neighborhood of 1,500 or fewer words, your going to have to limit it and pick out only what is the absolute most important (such as Kyle being a neglected child in Little Red Ball). The same can be said about atmosphere. This has to be created more or less through the language you use because you can’t describe the setting to the last detail without blowing your word count. So you have very little space for character development and for atmosphere building, leaving you with a pretty flat story. If you want readers to remember your story you have to make it twisted. And the shorter a story is, the more twisted it needs to be (think Hemmingway’s six word story: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn). There are so many different ways to twist your tales. Keep reading to discover some of them.

Twist 1: Turn of Events

Effectively, all twists are a turn of events – the problem or conflict presented to the reader is resolved. In flash fiction, the turn of events should be completely unexpected. In Little Red Ball I had the main character, a neglected four-year-old, faced off alone against a ghoulish woman that lived in his closet whom would open the closet door, peek out, and grasp at him. When she finally gets hold of him though, the ending took even me by surprise as I was writing it. Turns out she wasn’t trying to kill and eat him after all; she was trying to save him from a neglectful mother.

Twist 2: Irony

Irony can be a great way to add a twist to your flash fiction. To be clear on what irony is, let’s consult Webster’s definition 2a(1) and 2a(2):

(1)incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2):  an event or result marked by such incongruity

In The Reading, I had the main character receive a tarot card reading and the gypsy woman that have it to him told him the cards meant one thing. The protagonist completely blows off the reading all together since it seems to be completely inaccurate. However, at the end of the story, the meaning of the cards turns out to be quite literal and spell out exactly how the character will die.

Twist 3: Why So Serious? or It’s Not Funny!

In this twist, the writer completely changes the tone of the story. It may start out lighthearted and amusing or completely somber, putting the reader in the mood for either one. Then, at the end of the story, things change… for better or worse. In my upcoming Briefly Bizarre story I start the mood out light with an amusing situation about someone who forgets a small line in a symbol they drew. By the end of the story, the full gravity of forgetting that one little mark takes it’s toll though and the reader is pulled into a suddenly very serious situation.

Twist 4: BAM!!!

Another great way to add twist at the end is to pour every last bit of detail you can into the last scene of the story. The reader is in this lightly constructed world with a lightly developed character and lightly developed atmosphere and then, suddenly, the story becomes extremely vivid. The writer brings the details to life in a scene so intense that it will stick with the reader long after they spent less than ten minutes reading it. This is the technique I am combining with #3 on this list for the next Briefly Bizarre.

I hope these four takes on twisting your ending are helpful. And remember that horror fiction is really just fiction and the twists above can be applied to any genre. I’d be happy to hear from you in the comments section with any other takes on twisting endings you may have. If you liked this post, please take a moment to let me know and share it with the buttons below.

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