Back in May, when I did a talk at the Bristol Comic Expo - namely, My Future Shock Hell: Breaking Into 2000 AD (And What I Learned While Doing It) - I concluded with a promise that I’d post some thoughts on twist endings. Not only those that occur in 2000 AD’s FUTURE SHOCKS, but in pretty much every form of storytelling there is, from short stories to screenplays. So here’s a quick bit of study on what twists are, how they work, and how to identify the five different types
A twist is a moment of revelation within a story that throws into question all that’s gone before. Often appearing at the conclusion of a story, it’s essentially a specific type of action or ‘beat’. Aristotle called it the ‘peripeteia’ (variously translated as ‘reversal’ or ‘sudden change’), referring both to the sudden downturn in the protagonist’s fortunes that occurs in tragedy (such as Oedipus’ realisation that he’s married his mum) and the sudden change for the good in comedy (such as the lovesick Duke Orsino in TWELFTH NIGHT realising that his favourite page-boy is actually a girl in disguise).
Whether for good or ill, the peripeteia means an abrupt reversal in the protagonist's circumstances. Aristotle pointed out that the reversal occurs in conjunction with ‘anagnorisis’ (variously translated as ‘discovery’ or ‘recognition’), the actual moment at which the protagonist uncovers a hitherto unknown piece of information. In other words, it’s that bit in the movie when the main character realises they’ve just murdered their dad, married their mum, or that they were a ghost the whole time. This is also the point at which the character might fall to their knees yelling, ‘Nooooooooo!’ – and it’ll probably be raining...
You can read a revised and updated version of this essay over on my FREE Substack newsletter Agent of Weird