Flipping the calendar over on November first heralds the beginning of the holiday season. Turkeys appear everywhere in the form of handprints displayed on the refrigerator, pinecones decorated with feathers, and carved into leftover Halloween pumpkins.
It’s also time for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, where writers of all levels stop sleeping, cleaning their homes and instead devote every spare moment to writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. It is possible. All you have to do is write 1,667 words a day for the entire month. That doesn’t sound hard until you miss a day. Or two. Or three.
It’s day sixteen of NaNoWriMo, and you’ve just realized your work-in-progress is short of the target.
It’s time for a plot twist.
There’s no better way to fill the page than to give your main characters a problem to solve or an obstacle to navigate.
15 Page-Filling Plot Twists for NaNoWriMo
Let’s talk about the weather. Extreme weather presents a challenge for everyone but tossing a hurricane or hail storm at your characters gives them a few pages to deal with the situation and the effects of having their fictional lives interrupted.
Killer action. Murdering a character can turn into a significant plot development, or perhaps they’re clumsy and fall into a well, and Lassie’s not there to help. The character’s absence and circumstance of death complicate a plot nicely.
Take it away. Whatever it is that your main character needs, take it away. Don’t let them have what they want and then force them to figure out how to get it. It could be a love interest, money, stolen artwork, or just dinner. Denying them their goal keeps the page turning as they work for it.
Feeling green? Sudden illness like food poisoning, catching the flu, or appendicitis will waylay a character for pages as they recuperate and infect other characters with their germs. Pandemic? Maybe not, but a fast-spreading virus will undoubtedly complicate your plot.
Free to a good home. Think outside the kennel for this one. We’ve all sheltered a stray kitten or pooch, but what if the stray is a Macaw or a lemur? A lost, deodorized pet skunk could add pages of humor to your story.
Pregnancy. If you keep up with current events, you know it’s not impossible for a male to carry a pregnancy. Now that’s a plot twist no one saw coming.
Your Protagonist is forced to lie. It may be for a good cause or to hide something they would like to keep hidden. You get to choose. They may decide lying is the solution they need.
Former love interest shows up. It could be a red herring or a master plan that starts a new series of events. You can decide if this is a positive turn or a bad one for your main character.
Protagonist loses his/her cell phone. How would you feel if this happened to you? Tap into that panic and channel it to your character.
Character reveals they are someone else. Imposter alert! Have a lot of fun stringing other characters along until the shyster is unmasked.
Your main character gets trapped. It could be a room, building, car, elevator, shopping mall after closing, or the attic. Are they claustrophobic? Do they miss an important event? How does this change the course of action within your main plot?
(Want to write stronger behavior descriptions and avoid cliches? Read Loaded Language)
Force your main character to learn a new skill. Water skiing for someone who can’t swim would introduce a few problems. Send them undercover in a floral shop only to discover they’re allergic to daisies. Here are a few more to get you plotting: cooking, treehouse construction, coding for the dark web, backhoe operator, camera boom operator, painter (wall), painter (canvas), writer.
Go to a ball game. Pick your sport, a lot can happen: foul balls, boxing matches in the middle of hockey games, and marriage engagements on the jumbotron. Strangely enough, not long ago a baseball game was delayed due to bees in the dugout. Add humor, danger, or intrigue to get the pages turning.
Alien abduction/Ghosts/Haunting. Random, yes. But when you’re down to the last few dozen pages of NaNoWriMo, it’s a no holds barred writing free for all.
Midnight fire alarm. This actually happened to me years ago. The alarm sounded just after 1 AM. I joined dozens of other hotel guests headed down the stairwell, all of us in pajamas and carrying computer bags, only to find out it was a kitchen fire so small it was out before the firetrucks could park. If your characters are somewhere they shouldn’t be, an alarm is a creative way to flush them out or interrupt their action just before they get what they want.
NaNoWriMo and Beyond
Sometimes you just need a little push to get your fingers to tap out a few more pages and catch up with word count. Check out these online plot generators for new and unconventional plot ideas.