Twist endings are story beats that divert the story logic trajectory and assumptions originally set up in the story. They usually occur towards the end of the story to surprise and entertain audiences by subverting and challenging their expectations of story outcome.
According to Alec Worley there are five key types of such endings:
1) REVERSAL OF IDENTITY
As its name suggests, this reversal occurs when a character turns out to be someone other than who we thought. This trope is particularly useful in mystery/ detective stories, where the suspect turns out to be the least suspicious character. It’s also found in mistaken identity comedies, such as Mrs. Doubtfire, when the nanny is really the father in disguise. At its core, this reversal is a declaration of authentic self. The mask is removed, the deception uncovered, and a character finally reveals their true essence.
2) REVERSAL OF MOTIVE
This plot twist reveals the subtextual nature of human motivation. They either reveal their true motivation for their behavior to surprise audiences, or change their motivation when more facts come to light. These motive reversals could also be a function a character coming to understand themselves and revealing their true motivations. Consider the iconic Walter White, who convinced himself for many seasons of “Breaking Bad” that his illicit operations were driven by his desire to support his family following his imminent death. However, after deeper character exploration, Walter finally admits that “he did it for himself”. He become a drug lord to fuel his ego and compensate for the mundane existence and lost opportunities that being a chemistry teacher gave him.
3) REVERSAL OF PERCEPTION
This is often an epiphany, or an intellectual breakthrough experienced after a character has spent the main part of the story gathering knowledge. It typifies the main character’s journey and validates their journey. These twists often stem from characters taking time out to process the knowledge they have gained in order to see the big picture. After the last piece of the puzzle is discovered,
4) REVERSAL OF FORTUNE
In its most basic form, these twists are about gaining or losing. They can refer to material wealth, status, relationships or attitudes. They are designed to remind us what really matters. They are about purging elements of our lives which no longer serve us and to allow abundance to flow in. Fortune also relates to aspects of our lives we cannot control. Call it fate or chance.
5) REVERSAL OF FULFILMENT
This is often seen when powerful villains battle equally powerful heroes. It relates to sudden shifts in power balance when one character temporarily has the upper hand. Fulfilment is antithetic to fortune because it is borne from the main character’s struggles. Ultimately there can only be one victor.