The power of surprising one’s readers is a skill that every writer should be familiar with. Part of the difficulty in writing a novel is that it’s a long and sometimes arduous process. Once you’ve written sixty or seventy thousand words, you’ll most likely be spent. (I sure am!)
When you finally sit down and start reading your book, you’ll notice either one of two things; you made it too predictable, or you put so many plot twists in there, that you’re even surprising yourself!
So, what do you do? Do you settle for a well-structured plot, one that makes sense? Or do you go balls to the wall, and throw a tonne of false twists and turns in, trying to keep your readers guessing?
Well, I guess I’m an in the middle type of guy. When I started writing books for a living, I was the opposite. I was into throwing a tsunami of twists into my books, sometimes just for the hell of it, and the results were sometimes a little underwhelming. (Or overwhelming, depends how you look at it.)
After doing this for a while (nearly five years) I’ve come to the conclusion that surprising your reader can come in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be related to a plot twist, or an unsuspected character reveal. It could just be the setting of the book or the mentality of the main character.
I for one get excited when reading a book that comes a little out of left-field, where the whole plot and storyline are kind of wacky, where it hasn’t really been done before. I know that there are plenty of people out there that believe that there is no such thing as an original thought, but I disagree. Most things in life, including stories, film, and music, are things that influenced us in some way.
But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t original. Just because Godzilla was made before Cloverfield, doesn’t mean Cloverfield isn’t its own beast in its own right! So surprising a reader doesn’t necessarily have to be about something super original. It could be the fact that your book isn’t just another Billionaire Romance novel! That in itself is probably a big enough twist to get your book noticed by somebody, hahah!
For anyone out there that’s struggling with the idea of filling your book with surprising twists and turns, here are a few pointers, things I use when I start writing a novel, things that help me determine whether or not my book will stick out from the rest.
- A novel needs to have a killer angle, and whilst most writers tend to think that the angle must be plot specific, only true writers know that it can be as subtle as the way a character speaks, or interacts with the world, thus changing a reader’s mind on something, or even securing a bond between the reader and the character.
- Plot twists should not be forced. They should surprise you as much as they surprise whoever is reading your novel.
- Manufacturing a twist just to breathe life into a bloated story won’t cover up the fact that the reader had to sit through 400 pages of shite before it got good.
- Plotting has to do with pace, and pace doesnt always mean fast, it’s good to slow down once in a while.
- Pushing the envolope so to speak will help manifest a story that is already full of interesting and surprising scenes. Going for a plain old murder mystery isnt enough, you need something special, and if it isnt special, then you need to make it so.
I hope these tips will help any of you looking to inject some life into your novels, but as ever, everything is subjective, and if you think I’m just talking crap, then that’s fine.
You wouldn’t be the first to say so!
Until next time,