It seems to me that surprises in life, and surprises in books, are two rather different things.
In life, I don’t love surprises
How about you? Do you feel a special thrill when someone goes to the effort of surprising you, perhaps for a birthday or special occasion? Would you enjoy going out to dinner, but not knowing what kind of food you’d be eating until you arrived at the restaurant? Or, how about taking a trip where you didn’t know the destination?
My friends and loved ones know that I’d much rather know the plan in advance, preferably with details. In fact, I tend to stick to a plan, even if it’s not a very good one, in preference to changing it. However, they know they can get away with mild surprises, like a lovely birthday tea earlier this year. I knew I was meeting one friend, I just didn’t know that others would be arriving too. That level of surprise, I could handle.
But in novels, surprises are great
When we’re reading novels or watching movies, though, most of us take delight in being surprised. We like it when plots twist and characters are unpredictable. However, people still have to do things which are believable and make sense for their character at the time.
As a writer, one of my many challenges is in keeping things surprising and interesting, but still credible. There’s great skill in hinting at a twist, without giving it away. And in books with strong romantic elements, most readers have a pretty good idea from early on, with whom the main character is likely to find happiness.
So, as authors, we want to keep you on your toes, without having you scratching your head entirely.
I’m in the early stages of writing the fourth book in the Saffron Sweeting collection and at the moment, I feel a few more surprises would be a good thing. Leave a comment to let me know if you like books to catch you unawares sometimes, and if so, what your most memorable literary surprise has been.