Do you like to surprise your reader?


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Thread: Do you like to surprise your reader?

  1. #1

    Do you like to surprise your reader?

    This idea for a thread was generated by an interesting post made by NobodyParticular in the 'Write What You Know Thread'.

    It got me thinking about surprising the reader. It's something that I like as a reader, and something that I strive to do in my writing, both in my plot and in my dialogue.


    This article sets out some dos and don'ts:

    “Readers love to be surprised, but they're not fans of being tricked or manipulated. Author John McNally shares his five tips for surprising your readers without it feeling like a trick.”

    https://www.writersdigest.com/write-...g-like-a-trick

    Do you like to surprise your reader and if so, how do you do it?

    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    This idea for a thread was generated by an interesting post made by NobodyParticular in the 'Write What You Know Thread'.

    It got me thinking about surprising the reader. It's something that I like as a reader, and something that I strive to do in my writing, both in my plot and in my dialogue.


    This article sets out some dos and don'ts:

    “Readers love to be surprised, but they're not fans of being tricked or manipulated. Author John McNally shares his five tips for surprising your readers without it feeling like a trick.”

    https://www.writersdigest.com/write-...g-like-a-trick

    Do you like to surprise your reader and if so, how do you do it?

    I'm not sure if it fits your criteria for this thread but I often start with a character if I'm stuck for an idea and immediately add conflict to see how I can extrapolate an idea from that character. I think you'd call this method 'surprise' because it plays off stereotypes. Two that come to mind from a long time ago:

    A vicar throwing bricks through the window of is own church.
    A skin head on a roundabout crying.

    In both cases, a story would evolve naturally because they ask the question 'why'?
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  3. #3
    I don't know that "surprise" is quite the word I would use for my goals. I think surprise implies that something came out of nowhere. (Maybe that's just in my head.) I would say, though, I try to subvert expectations. Generally speaking, if you're doing your job as a writer, your story should have a flow, and it should be building towards THE BIG EVENT. Your reader probably has some ideas about what's going to happen in your story's high point and how things will be resolved. That's where I try to "surprise" them. Not "surprise" as in something totally outside the realm of the story (like killer clowns randomly showing up and murdering the bad guy or whatever), but something that fits the tone of the story while simultaneously not being the obvious choice of resolution. Also (again, generally speaking), I think stories that don't do that to some extent tend to fall flat.

  4. #4
    When the story provides an opportunity, yes, absolutely I'll add a twist, a surprise, or something unexpected - usually at or near the end. It's fun, but I feel the writer has to subtly drop clues a few times during the story. When it's done right the reader will think: oh, that's what that was about.

    The thing to avoid is the dreaded 'then a miracle happened' ending, like the cavalry coming over the hill at the last minute in the old western movies.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    I'm not sure if it fits your criteria for this thread but I often start with a character if I'm stuck for an idea and immediately add conflict to see how I can extrapolate an idea from that character. I think you'd call this method 'surprise' because it plays off stereotypes. Two that come to mind from a long time ago:

    A vicar throwing bricks through the window of is own church.
    A skin head on a roundabout crying.

    In both cases, a story would evolve naturally because they ask the question 'why'?
    Oh absolutely! A surprise in a character's behaviour makes for a rich read. I really like your examples, and yeah immediately I want to read on.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    Oh absolutely! A surprise in a character's behaviour makes for a rich read. I really like your examples, and yeah immediately I want to read on.
    It's a good method to come up with an interesting story. You can take any stereotype and do it. As I always say, a stereotype isn't a person with particular traits, it's a person with ONLY those traits. Hence, a skinhead with heart and a victor with malice.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post

    Do you like to surprise your reader and if so, how do you do it?
    Usually by finishing something.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    When the story provides an opportunity, yes, absolutely I'll add a twist, a surprise, or something unexpected - usually at or near the end. It's fun, but I feel the writer has to subtly drop clues a few times during the story. When it's done right the reader will think: oh, that's what that was about.

    The thing to avoid is the dreaded 'then a miracle happened' ending, like the cavalry coming over the hill at the last minute in the old western movies.
    Yes that is exactly when it works! And there is a skill to introducing the initial bait. You do it very well btw! How do you, as a writer, when you know what you're hinting at, avoid giving away too much, but just enough to have the reader expect a resolution? How do you test it?

    And the other caveat is that some readers are more astute than others. So you have to write to your audience to a degree. I have already accepted the fact that I will lose some of my readers, because they may not be interested in finding out more about some of the things I hint at, i.e. financial stuff. And it's not important if they fully understand it, if they don't want to, as long as they accept that something wasn't right and that's what caused the crime. For myself, if I read or watch something that is over my head, like IT stuff, I can still enjoy the story if the writing has another underlying plot and the IT world is just to provide a setting.

    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Taylor View Post
    Yes that is exactly when it works! And there is a skill to introducing the initial bait. You do it very well btw! How do you, as a writer, when you know what you're hinting at, avoid giving away too much, but just enough to have the reader expect a resolution? How do you test it?

    And the other caveat is that some readers are more astute than others. So you have to write to your audience to a degree. I have already accepted the fact that I will lose some of my readers, because they may not be interested in finding out more about some of the things I hint at, i.e. financial stuff. And it's not important if they fully understand it, if they don't want to, as long as they accept that something wasn't good and that's what caused the crime. For myself, if I read or watch something that is over my head, like IT stuff, I can still enjoy the story if the writing has another underlying plot and the IT world is just to provide a setting.

    I was astonished when someone already spotted something about my latest story and hit the nail on the head. It was a spotty moment ... Don't ask me who it was or where it was posted!
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    I was astonished when someone already spotted something about my latest story and hit the nail on the head. It was a spotty moment ... Don't ask me who it was or where it was posted!
    Were you pleased that they picked it up so early, or did it give you cause to rethink? Not that I want you to rethink too much.
    Sometimes in the waves of change we find our new direction...
    - unknown

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