Hah! That one made me laugh out loud. Because, y’know, if you have so many layers of plot twists upon plot twists, they begin to cancel each other out until you arrive at the way the story was. Effectively, too many plot twists actually start to unravel the “twistiness” thereof.
But this isn’t simply about the plot twist itself: This is about a more specific twist: the Ironic Twist. This doesn’t even have to embody the plot twist–per se. Sometimes the ironic twist IS a plot twist, but I think most of the time It’s something the reader has to mull over instead of getting it right away.
First off, if you want to execute an ironic twist, you fist have to know what that is. The better you know it, the better the twist will be. In order to understand the ironic twist, however, you must first understand what irony truly means.
Irony = A state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result. (Thank you Google) This can take the form of bitter irony, poetic irony, or any one of a plethora of different uses.
So an example of irony would be if you had a man whose house burned down with his family inside, his car stolen, his bank account terminated, and his leg broken in a train accident complaining to a friend about his problems. The friend takes pity on the unfortunate man, and offers him…ten bucks, to alleviate his discomfort.
The unfortune man is now thinking ruefully, “Seriously? Is this a joke? This is the exact opposite of what I needed right now.” This is irony. It certainly is the victory or the triumph or the thing expected–but presented in the exact opposite way that the reader had expected. The closer you can get to that exact opposite, the more ironic it is.
Irony doesn’t always need to convey humor, though. It is a classic resolution to a revenge story to have the person doing the revenging to die. This, of course, presents the idea that since the avenger is concerned with “justice” for other people, he never takes into account the fact that he isn’t the judge, jury and executioner for all his victims, so in the end he dies for his crimes. His victims may be guilty, but so is he. This is ironic because he expected to execute his revenge (and perhaps he does) and, in the end, he is killed himself. The irony.
If the trickster is fooled, if the moral paragon stumbles, if the strong man finally finds something he can’t lift, for all his strength–this is irony. The trick is, however, like a magician’s vanishing act: you see, you can’t just magically reduce the trickster’s intelligence, the moral paragon’s morality, or the strongman’s strength . You have to come up with a good excuse. You have to show the reader what they thought was there but really wasn’t.
A good example of this would be if you had a mountain climber who was so great at his craft that he could scale any mountain around. He was proud of his skills, and his friends urge him to scale a mountain in another country. However, in the other country, they have mountains that make the local climber’s mountains look like molehills. When the local climber arrives, his pride deflates as he finds out that he wasn’t so great after all, and he can’t hold a candle to those who DO climb the mountains in this country.
Such is the nature of the ironic twist: it’s like a plot twist (that shows the reader either something they didn’t know or something they thought they knew but really different) but more so. It’s not that it wasn’t what it at first seemed: it’s that it is the exact opposite of what it at fist seemed.
Pulling this off can be a little tricky, and you should fully expect that your first attempts will be wanting. But ironic twists are often gratuitous: they honestly don’t add too much to the story, and if yours don’t add very much at all, don’t be sad or offended. After all…
You’re a novice.
(Ha, get it? ‘Cause you thought I would end with something inspiring or uplifting, especially to…Y’know what, forget it.)
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!