Plot twist!

Hasn’t everyone had an experience that might described as a “plot twist”? You’re going along, living your life and suddenly everything changes. You meet someone, you move somewhere, you find a new and compelling purpose.

I’m in the midst of a plot twist right now—preparing to move halfway across the country at what seems to be the drop of a hat. (It’s not totally unlike the decision I made 26 years ago to trade my Minnesota life for a two-year adventure in Japan.)

Plot-twist moments are curiosities, because the big ones are rare. They usually come about for a reason, and they generally serve an important purpose in our lives.

But writing about them can seem daunting—where to begin? Where to end?

If you’ve got a plot twist you’d like to explore, give yourself permission to forget all that. Instead, think in terms of snapshots:

  • Vegetables/flowers that were growing in my garden the day I learned ______.
  • What my sister said when I told her that ______.
  • Where I was when I knew I needed to ______.
  • My wardrobe needed to change completely when I decided to ______.

These are just a few possible entry points into a complex story.

In addition to opening up a path to ease into the writing process, these details also serve to make the story relatable to readers. 

One memoir that I love for its snapshots is What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas. The overall structure is multi-faceted and complex, but Thomas tells the story in details, some of which are relayed in micro-chapters—some just a few paragraphs long—while others are incorporated into longer, plot- and dialogue-driven chapters. Check it out, and see what you think.

If you’re ready to tackle a plot twist from your life, I invite you to begin with a detail or a moment. Maybe that’s all you’ll write, a memento of that time.

Or maybe this effort will kick off a larger project, the likes of which you’ve never imagined.

I’d love to see what you come up with!

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