Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

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Plot twist story prompts aren’t meant for the beginning or the end of stories. Rather, they’re for forcing big and small turns in the anticipated trajectory of a story. This is to make it more interesting for the readers and writers alike.

Each week, I’ll provide a new prompt to help twist your story. Find last week’s prompt, Going Rogue, here.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

Plot Twist Story Prompts: The Ultimatum

For today’s prompt, have a character give or face an ultimatum. The nice thing about an ultimatum is that it automatically creates tension for multiple characters (and the entire story as a result). By its very nature, an ultimatum puts the person giving the demand on the spot as needing something…or else. So let’s start there.

(6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense.)

The character giving the ultimatum has probably been building up to this point. Maybe they’ve been covering for another character’s substance abuse problem while trying to get them help. They’ve been patient, but one transgression too many (or with very high stakes) has pushed the character to the point at which they say, “You need to quit doing X, or I’m done helping you out.” The person giving the ultimatum probably still wants success for the person receiving it, but they’ve been burned before.

Meanwhile, the character receiving the ultimatum has to decide whether they care or not. They’ve probably been doing something a certain way for a reason, whether that reason’s a good or bad one. Going back to substance abuse, maybe that’s their coping mechanism. Or maybe they perform dangerous tricks to make money to provide for their family. Or there’s some other reason for their behavior that makes sense in their mind. 

Regardless, the ultimatum forces the character receiving the ultimatum to decide: Do I keep doing what I’ve been doing? Or do I change my ways? The internal conflict should be real. And the character giving the ultimatum will have to decide how to react as well. Do they really cut the character off if they fail to act appropriately? Do they really trust the character if it seems they do act appropriately? And what happens if there’s a relapse further on down the road?

So have a character give an ultimatum and see what happens next.


40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers: Writing Ideas for Bending Your Stories in New Directions, by Robert Lee Brewer

Have you hit a wall on your work-in-progress? Maybe you know where you want your characters to end up, but don’t know how to get them there. Or, the story feels a little stale but you still believe in it. Adding a plot twist might be just the solution.

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