I'm working on a story with a twist ending and I am trying to figure out how much to explain. It's a tricky thing. Wherever I draw the line there will be some people who are baffled and others who find it blindingly obvious.
All twist endings are surprises but not all surprise endings are twists. Have you ever read a story or watched a movie and immediately wanted to start it over to see if the author played fair, or notice what you missed? That is a twist ending.
Ideally you want the twist to happen with a bang. You don't want to have to spend pages and pages explaining it. It should be a self-evident flash of lightning, not a lengthy stretch of exposition. There is a reason everyone loves the end of The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects, but people complain about the last few minutes of Psycho (after the shocking climax).
And so it is with my story. I could end by taking five hundred words to say: "Years ago Character A did x to Character B. And, in the present day, because Character C is related to B, he chose to do y."
Instead I pared it down a single sentence nine words long. They are carefully chosen, fully foreshadowed words, but only nine of them. (By the way, I generally get paid by the word. See the sacrifices I make for my art?)
If this thing gets published I am sure some readers will get frustrated. Some will go back and read the story again to see that it all makes perfect sense. And some will be delighted.
Or maybe the editors will hate it and I'll have to start over. Wouldn't that be a twist?
By the way, yesterday Trace Evidence, the blog of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, published a new piece of mine about the difficulties of writing a series about the same character. Enjoy.