A little twist on the Daily Prompt – I bet you weren’t expecting that? Okay, you’re right, that was cheesy.
Unexpected things happen in real life all of the time, from good to bad, to things we find irrelevant. I already confessed my most unexpected event in ‘Degrees of Shock’. No one ever expects a school shooting, or to win the lottery, hit the jackpot at the casino or turn the television on and see the Twin Towers crumbling to the ground.
As a writer, the “unexpected” is a nifty, necessary tool used to capture and retain the attention of our readers. A jackknife in the plot, meant to keep the pages turning – but how difficult is it to weave an unexpected turn of events into a storyline? Not too difficult, I suppose, if you like being predictable. I don’t think any writer sets out to be predictable, with the exception of (cough) Hallmark Holiday movie screenwriters (cough) – not to point any fingers.
However, there is a fine line between a ‘plot twist’ and a ‘plot death’. I’ve said this before, and I will keep on saying it: Readers are smart. They’re smart and they’re extremely aware of what they like. Throwing an “unexpected” curve ball out of left-field that doesn’t really flow well with the rest of the story, is going to get your book trashed (both literally and verbally).So, to craft the unexpected in a good plot takes squeezing wiggling room out of preset space. Say what? Yes, wiggle. Maneuver. Move around, stand and look at it from every possible angle, like you’re rearranging your living room. Imagine that all of the complex plot points are pieces of furniture and the ‘Bam!’ (the twist) you’re trying to incorporate is the coffee table. The main focal point of the entire room, surrounded by all of the other pieces that need your ‘unexpected event’ to be their nexus. How will that one thing affect everything else? Ripples in still water… lemme see how many more clichés I can toss out here…
Haven’t you ever read a book that was going in one direction, only to have the ‘plot twist’ completely change that direction for the worst? Rendering the story impossible to finish? Or, just simply fizzling out to a highly disappointing ending? Yeah, those ‘plot deaths’ can happen – even during the writing process. I’ve had to scrap my share of pages, because of that and start over, take the twist out or change it somehow. Newsflash Readers, you aren’t the only ones that the ‘unexpected’ happens to! Those plot twists aren’t always premeditated! They come on and shock the hell out of us writers along the way – get our blood pumping, the excitement churning – and we run with it, until it either goes horribly awry or takes us to a far better place than we’d initially hoped for.
Or, maybe that’s just me: The completely unorganized writer that can’t even manage to make character bios before attacking the keyboard. I guess, in a very real sense, my entire book is completely unexpected to me beyond the initial idea. You know what, though? I kind of like it that way. 🙂