As we've mentioned numerous times before, writing is hard. There are a million easier things you can do with your time. Ever watch Bob Ross? I'll pet you could pick up oil painting in a weekend. A little cadmium yellow here, a little titanium white there, and BAM! You've got a happy little hobby that only embarrasses you on weekends.
But if you truly have to be a writer, and I understand that impulse better than most, then you have to acknowledge one singular truth about the craft:
You need a twist ending.
Okay, there's a LOT more to writing than that, but we're talking about it now, so buckle up, buttercup.
How do you end a story? If you're like me (circa 2000), you want everything tied up with a pretty ribbon. You want an ending that covers all the bases, pleases all the readers, and leaves no thread incomplete.
But, in the words of this incomprehensible generation, "ya basic."
Art is not meant to be perfect. Art is a reflection of life (which is inherently messy), and as such need to have the same slings and arrows of misfortune. Saccharine-sweet endings may work for Disney, because those are fairy tales (which is to say, they are meant to wrap things up with happy endings). Your stories, however, need to have something more.
Namely, they need to have the twist.
When I was a younger man, studying under the phenomenal Theo Epstein, he would often refer to a particular moment in the story as the "twisteroonie." It was, simply put, the moment when all bets were off.
That character you thought was on the MC's (main character) side? He was the villain the whole time. You thought this took place in ancient Rome? It was a simulation. That therapist who's trying to help the boy with the magical abilities? Oh, he was DEAD THE WHOLE TIME!
The twist sells the story. It separates you from the rest of the pack, and ensures that you leave the reader with a memorable adventure.
Think back to any movie or TV show worth your time. I can guarantee they had a great twist at one point or another.
- Wonder Woman needs to fight Ares to end war on Earth? (which is a bit Kratos-like, if we're being honest) Well, it turns out the evil was in man all along!
- Walter White can't seem to make a connection for his new meth business? Oh, turns out his new partner is a mild-mannered man who OWNS A FAST FOOD FRANCHISE!
- Harry Potter can't figure out where the last horcrux is to defeat Voldemort? Son, YOU ARE THE HORCRUX!
The twist is a crucial moment in the story because it reveals the ultimate truth. It is another shift in status quo, but comes at a more unexpected time.
In case you're reading this early in the morning, and you've forgotten the basics of story structure, let's review a little bit. At the beginning of your piece, you introduce the status quo. We have to see a little bit of the world just so we recognize when there's a tectonic shift to the side.
- John McLane is visiting his wife, and she's using her maiden name at the office!
- John Anderson trades black-market code with druggies and rave-heads, and he longs to know the secret of this thing called "The Matrix."
- John Spartan (geez, lotta Johns in storytelling, huh) hunts the super-criminal Simon Phoenix across war-torn Hollywood.
We see the characters in their element--or rather, we see them in EVERYONE's element. This is what life will be like if NOTHING changes in the story. But, ooh boy, something's gonna change!
- Terrorists attack the Nakatomi plaza!
- John receives a mysterious message urging him to follow "the white rabbit." The next day, he's attacked by government goons.
- John captures Phoenix, but civilians die in the process and he is sentenced to be frozen.
These aren't the twists of the story, not yet. These are the shifts in status quo. We had the world as we THOUGHT it was, and now we are facing down the world AS IT IS. Our characters will have to adjust to these new circumstances, which becomes the basis for the story. But, oh snap, the REAL twist is just around the corner.
- John, these aren't terrorists. THEY'RE THIEVES!
- Neo isn't the one! And Morpheus sacrifices himself anyway. But wait, Neo can DODGE BULLETS?
- John faces off against Simon in the future, and Simon reveals that the hostages from earlier were ALREADY DEAD!
You see how the twist compounds the action of the narrative? Where at first we thought our story only had a few harsh turns, now we see that this road is much more dangerous and windy. Our MCs might not survive, because shit is getting SO DAMN REAL.
Twisteroonies take a decent story and flip it headlong into awesome territory. Don't be afraid of them. Embrace them. Engage with them. And write them into everything you do.