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Favorite plot twists
By JC Kang
The Bad Guy is a Good Guy. The Good Guy is related to the Bad Guy. The Bad Guy isn’t really dead. The Bad Guy really isn’t dead, is secretly a Good Guy, and is related to the Good Guy.
Many stories have plot twists. They can be mind-blowing game changers that completely reinvent the way we contextualize the story. Others are haphazard, as if the storyteller just wanted to spice things up, but didn’t lay much of a foundation.
I personally prefer plot twists we should have seen coming, because the storyteller gave us all the clues beforehand. In movies, you get the OMG feeling, followed by the desire to rewind and see how it was set up. Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. Lady Liberty at the end of the Planet of the Apes. The surprising reveals in Memento or Dead Again.
When done right, the same effect takes place in the written word as well, making us want to flip back and see how the author did it. Controlled Information from limited Points of View can give us enough pieces of the puzzle to frame a picture, while the final reveal completes it.
It all comes back to the set-up. Done right, and you relive the Forcegasm you had when Darth Vader revealed who Luke Skywalker’s father is; done wrong, and you groan like when you find out who Anakin Skywalker’s father is. The great ones might develop over several books in a series, like Sawyer’s Long Game in Lost; but they can fall flat if drawn out as long as Lost.
Here are some of my favorite twists in fantasy fiction (SPOILERS!!!).
5. The Killer Is Not Who You Think
To me, George RR Martin is the master of the plot twists, so much that this list warrants two entries from Songs of Ice and Fire. The inciting incident in Game of Thrones is the Starks’ belief that the Lannisters are behind the murder of Jon Arryn, Hand of the King. With this is mind, Ned leaves his beloved Winterfell to become the new Hand, which sets off all the future twists and turns. It turns out his sister-in-law and Littlefinger are behind it all.
4. God is a Crazy Old Man
The Dragonlance series is old-school fantasy, an Omniscient POV story that serves as a transition between Lord of The Rings and many modern-day fantasies. Based on a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, it features dragons prominently. Even the two main gods are dragons—except when they wander the world in human form. One of the most endearing characters was Fizban—a befuddled old mage who seemed to be there just for comic relief… until you find out he is one of the two main gods.
3. The Big Boss Was A Henchman
The Lord of the Rings might be the granddaddy of Epic Fantasy, but parts of the back story, released as the Silmarillion after JRR Tolkien’s death, describe how his world was created. It is not really a plot twist in the classic sense, but still it reframes the way we look at the series. Sauron, the Lord of the Rings, is Henchman to a bigger, badder guy; while Gandalf is revealed to be an angel.
2. Bad Wizard, Good Wizard
Fantasy fiction has evolved over the years, but plot twists remain constant. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone introduces us to an interesting cast of characters, perhaps none as enigmatic as Severus Snapes. Harry is pretty sure Snapes is out to get him, in the worst possible way, but in the end, we learn that he’s been looking out for Harry the entire time. Brilliant!
1. L+R = J
The granddaddy of them all, one which GMMR fans have suspected. GMMR might not have written it yet, but the popular L + R = J theory was finally confirmed in the TV series, Game of Thrones. At the start of the story, we have no reason to disbelieve that Jon Snow is Ned’s Bastard… until you put all the pieces together, revealed over a long time, the truth was there all along: Jon is indeed the love child of Ned’s sister Lyanna and Targaryen heir Rhaegar.
Those are my favorite plot twists in fantasy. What are yours?
JC Kang’s unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Star Trek, and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor, and technical writer to pen the Daughter of the Dragon Throne, a multicultural epic fantasy.
The first two books, Dragon Scale Lute and Dragon Charmer were published earlier this year, with the final two set for later this year. The series follows Kaiya as she rediscovers the lost art of evoking magic through music, and grows from awkward teen to confident adult. Each story has a plot twist that will hopefully blow your mind!
Kaiya’s voice could charm a dragon. Had she lived when the power of music could still summon typhoons and rout armies, perhaps Cathay’s imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool. With alliances to build and ambitious lords to placate, they care more about her marriage prospects than her unique abilities. Only the handsome Prince Hardeep, a foreign martial mystic, recognizes her potential. Convinced Kaiya will rediscover the legendary but perilous art of invoking magic through music, he suggests her voice, not her marriage, might better serve the realm. When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan– Kaiya’s childhood friend and his half-elf sidekick (or maybe he’s her sidekick?)– discover mere discontent boiling over into full-scale rebellion, Kaiya must choose. Obediently wedding the depraved ringleader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.