One of the biggest go-to plot twists (and tropes) has been the “long-lost” sibling, parent, friend, etc. Your writing is going well, and then you stop and you wonder about what could spice things up, and all of a sudden you’re staring at the computer screen or notebook with wide eyes and your jaw dropped open, because having someone be introduced into their life that they should have known since the beginning is such a hard throw for anyone.
Some of these are easier than others depending on where you are in your story, and what kind of holes you’ve left open. Think about it before you jump though; what feels right for the character and their life? Another thing to consider is the execution of this. How are you going to introduce it, and does it help you do something else?
As an example: does the feel of the character having a long lost sibling make up for something else in their life and development, or do you feel like you should go back and write them as the youngest/oldest/middle of a group of children instead of alone?
Of course there’s another way to go about this as well: instead of a random interjection, make the person’s absence a conscious part of the hero’s life. The long lost brother who’s been missing or cut them out of his life for so long, who turns up unannounced one day. Or the friend thought dead who gets spotted at a crime scene. Or, neither of them show up just yet; they lurk in the outskirts of the novel until you’re ready to bring them in, or you decide you didn’t want and or need them after all.
Some plot holes may support these newly thought characters, though, the ones who jump in at you at the last second and turn the story on its head. The ones who grin at you and wave and show you something that could work rather well.
Others may not work out at all.
The Long Lost ______ is an interesting dynamic, when you look at it: you’re putting someone in front of your hero who should have been in their life all along, thus throwing them for a loop and making them come up with countless questions. Confusion. Anger. Upset. Betrayal. In some cases, embarrassment.
It’s a quick way to spice things up, but it can also change the tone of the story, so be careful how you use it. Find what degree of focus you want to give it, or not give it, and run with it. The phrase is “the more the merrier” for a reason, right? 😉
-The Novice Wordsmith