Boy, last post I talk about unreliable narrators, and this week I prove unreliable. Sorry about the two day delay.
The subject of unreliable narrators got me thinking about plot twists in general. One of the best plot twists ever (in my opinion) is the ending of Rob Thurman's science fiction/suspense novel Chimera. The twist was completely unexpected because the narrator himself didn't know he was unreliable.
Agitha Christie manages to bend her plots into pretzel shapes, partly, I think, because it's the nature of mysteries to keep the narrator in the dark until the very last chapter. It's the same logic that Holmes used in The Case of the Dying Detective. When a person (or narrator) doesn't know something, he's less likely to let it slip.
If the readers identify strongly enough with the narrator they'll feel the shock of the twist, even if they happen to be one of those very genre savvy people who (unlike me) can see a twist coming while it's still juggling bananas two miles up the road.
The most important thing isn't taking the reader by surprise, it's finding out how this character reacts when everything he thought turns out to be wrong.
That's the story.