Use bait-and-switch device carefully in stories

One common and time-honored way to make your plot more interesting is to employ a bait-and-switch device.

This occurs when the author guides and encourages readers to invest their attention in some suspenseful situation but then is substitute for a payoff that has little to do with what occurred before. Getting readers to invest their attention is the bait; substituting a payoff is the switch.

Examples of this frequently occur in literature of all stripes, usually as minor plot twists and in comedic scenes. However, mystery and detective stories often are entirely built around this device as the author wants to surprise readers with who really committed the crime at the story’s climax.

Sometimes in literature, this term refers to a point of view cut so that the expected climax is unresolved and left to the reader’s imagination. This frequently occurs in dark stories.

In either case, you should not haphazardly use the device. Done poorly, it leads to disjointed storytelling, and you risk leaving the reader feeling vaguely unfulfilled.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.