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Cheated and Deceived: 5 Kinds of Plot Twists I Don’t Like

Hey, it’s Sabrina!  Today I’m going to chat about some plot twists that I don’t like.  I’m specifically talking about these situations when they are framed as surprises, not just a part of the book’s entire concept.  I’m of course not going to talk about specific books in this post because I don’t want to spoil anyone.  Another disclaimer is that I am not going to be discussing what I consider to be disrespectful twists (such as using mental illnesses for shock value).  I also want to stress that just because a book uses one of these does not mean that I won’t like it, I’ve actually really enjoyed some books that use these twists.  Without further rambling, let’s get into it 🙂

I apologise in advance but I use the word “twist” 22 times in this blog post. 23 if you count this sentence.

Twist #1: Someone has a secret sibling.  Bonus dislike if it is an identical twin.

There was one strange year in my life which was filled with this twist.  I don’t know how it happened, but so many books I read, tv shows I watched and movies I viewed had characters that ended up having a sibling or twin that no one was aware of.  It was so prominent that it actually became a joke between my brother and me.  Obviously by the end of that year I was so tired of this twist and I am still tired of it now.  I especially hate the twist of a character having an identical twin because it always feels cheap.  If a character is acting strangely, the last reasoning I want is that it wasn’t them all along – it was their evil twin.  It’s as though the writers wrote themselves into a corner and a twin was the get-out-of-jail-free card.

Twist #2: The suspected murder turns out to have been an accident or suicide.

If I pick up a murder mystery novel, I’m usually hoping for an actual murder.  When the death turns out to have been an accident or a suicide, the book turns from a thrilling mystery into something a lot more depressing.  Sometimes, this is what I’m after from a book, but it needs to be clear from the tone in the beginning that this is the way the story is leaning (i.e. in a sad way) otherwise I end up feeling deceived. I’ve done all this work trying to figure out who the killer is, and it was all for nothing. Like with the twin twist, I feel like this can be seen as a cop-out, depending on the context.

Twist #3: The elder sister turns out to actually be the mother.

Unlike the previous twists, in my experience this tends to happen in genres outside of mystery/thrillers.  The main character will have a much elder sister that they are either quite distant from or very close to (never in between), and in the end they find out that she was in fact the one who gave birth to them. My main problem with this twist is that I have seen it several times now, but after the first instance of it I have unfortunately learnt to see it coming.  I’m sure there is a book out there that could put a spin on this twist to make it more unexpected, but I am yet to come across it.

Twist #4: The character you thought was dead is alive after all.

As with twist #3, I’d say this often occurs in other genres – particularly sci-fi and fantasy.  I have a few problems with this one.  The first, and probably the worst, is that I feel like I’ve been scammed into feeling sympathy for the main character or whoever it is that has been grieving the loss of this person for the majority of the book.  Another is that sometimes the character comes back, but they are completely different to the person the main character remembers.  Sometimes there’s a good reason for this (e.g. brainwashing), but sometimes it’s just that they’ve been faking their personality all along, and the main character, the person who was apparently closest to them, was fooled.  Okay, maybe I’m getting a bit specific here and this doesn’t actually happen all that often, I don’t know – but it annoys me.  I’ve also learnt to see this twist coming, so it doesn’t surprise me much anymore.

Twist #5: The person who thinks they are the murderer turns out not to be.

To explain this further, this twist is when one character feels guilty over thinking that they killed the victim, usually by accident or in the heat of the moment, and it turns out that all they did was grievously injure them – someone or something else came along and finished them off.  I am always so frustrated when this happens, mostly because of one aspect: the guilty party usually ends up feeling absolved.  But even if they didn’t kill the victim, they still really, really hurt them!  That’s still bad! I’ve also read a version of this twist where only the reader ever discovered that the suspected murder was actually caused by an illness, not a person, and honestly I think that was even worse.

What do you think?

Are there any kinds of plot twists that you don’t like?  Do you love any of the ones I’ve mentioned?  Are you just totally unaffected by plot twists in general?  Let me know!

20 thoughts on “Cheated and Deceived: 5 Kinds of Plot Twists I Don’t Like

  1. Have you read The Wych Elm by Tana French? It’s a slow burn mystery but the way the ending was smartly written! I don’t want to say too much in case of letting a spoiler slip!

    I’m not a big fan of the secret sibling twist as well!

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  2. Uhh, you’re right! I also hate when there is an identical twin involved. It’s like we’ve been expecting this big reveal and got a twin instead. And I’m also not a fan when the elder sister is actually the mother.

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  3. My mom watches a lot of soap operas, and the identical twin twist is so common! It’s so annoying!!! I feel like a lot of these twists are such cop outs and totally unrealistic. I definitely agree with this list lol.

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  4. Great Post! 😊 I don’t like the secret sibling/twin twist either, as often it doesn’t make that much sense to me. I still remember one of the TV Shows I was watching back then having an ‘evil twin’ all of the sudden when it made no sense at all. I never finished the show because there were also so many plot holes 😅 I also feel the same about the ‘back from the dead’ twist. It’s used so often in SFF that it’s no longer a surprise because I have seen it done so many times already.

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  5. I hate the secret sibling twist too! The first time I saw it I thought it was clever and kind of made sense, but every other time I’ve seen it I just roll my eyes and think “really?” Every twist has the possibility to be done right with a good author, but some of them are just kind of lazy to me.

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  6. Thank you for this post because I couldn’t have said it better!
    I hate when characters find out they have a long lost sibling and it’s even worse when they learn that’s its lie in the end. The whole coming back to life cliche is the absolute worse and it irritates me in so many different levels!

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  7. I don’t mind twist 4 if it’s written well. Sometimes I like it as you discover they have in fact been a guiding hand in the plot so far… but yeah, it can sometimes be annoying. As for twist 5, that can be good. I like to always be second-guessing if we’re trying to figure out a murderer so I like to be thrown off the scent by someone thinking it was their fault when it actually wasn’t. I actually hate when you know who the murderer was too early on in the book, it takes the fun out of it.

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  8. The secret sibling and I thought you were dead but you’re alive is definitely done a lot because I feel like I’ve seen them around a lot and it does make it less exciting and just feel a bit like a cliché. Coming up with brand new twists is hard but some do seem really unoriginal and they honestly can disappoint you a lot so I completely get your feelings. I haven’t experienced the rest too much but I don’t really read mysteries but they do sound like twists I wouldn’t like, they almost feel like a get out of jail card as you have rewrite what the story was supposed to be which I know is apart of mysteries but these feel more wrong in a way !! Really interesting post, I loved reading your thoughts !! ❤

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  9. “I especially hate the twist of a character having an identical twin because it always feels cheap. If a character is acting strangely, the last reasoning I want is that it wasn’t them all along – it was their evil twin.”
    LOL. I also tend to wonder why, if they are twins, one of them is good and the other is evil. It doesn’t make much sense, does it?

    “I am always so frustrated when this happens, mostly because of one aspect: the guilty party usually ends up feeling absolved.”
    I don’t think I’ve ever read a book along these lines, but it does come up in TV series sometimes, and…no.

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  10. I absolutely HATE twist #4. I have had my heart broken way too many times just for them to be like “LOL JK, I’M ALIVE!” I don’t like crying over nothing. It always tends to be my favorite character too so I never want to finish the darn book XD

    Amber @ Escape Life in the Pages

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  11. Not gonna lie, I actually considered twist #1 when writing some of my stories, but am glad that I decided against it. Thanks for sharing this comprehensive and enjoyable piece!

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  12. Yes to all of these! I also can’t stand it when a character is revealed to be the true heir to the throne or brother of a monarch or something like that. It just feels… cheap to me? 😂 Definitely not a fan of any of these.

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  13. I actually said “whaaat?” out loud when I read “The elder sister turns out to actually be the mother” 😅. I’ve never seen that in a book, but I don’t like the sound of the plot twist either 😂.
    I actually like it when characters come back to life, but I think it’s because I never get past the denial stage in the stages of grief hahaha 😅.
    I also really dislike that fifth trope too! I don’t like the idea of someone having to live with all that guilt for so long 😕.
    Great post, Sabrina 😄!

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  14. YES!! Oh my gosh, I totally agree with these. especially the sibling one.. i feel like they’re just NOT climactic at all? I’m lucky that I haven’t read books with these kinds of plot twists???? I loved this post idea!!

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  15. I thought I couldn’t relate to most of these since I’m a big scaredy cat, and don’t read mysteries or thrillers. But I recently read a historical romance of all things that had a murder mystery plot-line with the last plot twist. I wasn’t a fan of the plot-line OR the reveal since I was reading the book for the romance.

    I very much agree with you about bringing characters back to life. I prefer when characters stay dead. There are a few exceptions to this rule, as there are to every rule, but in general I start not to trust authors who consistently bring their characters back to life. Then what was the point of killing the character in the first place? I already know they have a 50/50 chance of being resurrected!

    I think the worst plot twists though are the ones that involve triggering material. If suicide or sexual assault is used as a plot twist, it can be very hard for someone to find trigger warning for them, since they’re considered “spoilers.” Plus, I just think it’s cheap to use someone’s pain as a plot twist to make your book more interesting. There are so many other routes to take to shock readers!

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  16. #4 is annoying to me because it not only takes away like, the whole point of the story usually, but it just seems cheap. Like if you’re gonna kill the character, kill them! Especially because I feel like I can often tell when it’s a “just kidding death” because the author usually isn’t particularly subtle about it. I can live with the other twists I think, but that one irks me so much! (Though the more I think about it, 1 and 2 are pretty annoying too!)

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  17. Okay the ex machina of a character who you thought is dead is not dead is the one I hate the most!! Films LOVE to use that trope and I wish we could bury it once and for all. Because once you open that bag of tricks it means when the next character dies you can’t be sure or don’t believe it. And that’s problematic for the storytelling. I haven’t come across the eldest sibling is actually mother or they have a secret sibling trope much – if ever – but I can see how those would be very frustrating as well.

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