Reading & Other Authors

Do You Like Surprises?

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?

Do you like surprises in books? | Pauline Wiles

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.

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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    Mary Elizabeth King
    September 19, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I’m with you. It’s fine in books but before people spend a bunch of money on me I’d rather be able to have a choice.

    My husband used to buy me clothes from a catalog he knew I liked. But he’d get colors he’d wear like tan or grey. I like blue, purple, some floral or print. I started marking things in the catalog around Christmas or birthdays and leave in a conspicuous place. Now he chooses one of the things I like. Still a surprise but more controlled.

    1. Reply
      September 19, 2018 at 11:10 am

      Yes, I prefer to give fairly specific hints, too!

  2. Reply
    Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
    September 24, 2018 at 6:30 am

    Pauline, I’m with Mary Elizabeth–“Still a surprise but more controlled”–and you–“mild surprises” like your tea party. Lovejoy’s looks like a fun tearoom, though I’m not keen on having salad with a tea. Just give me my 3-tiered stand–sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle, desserts on top (though I’d really rather have an extra sandwich or two than the desserts). And I so rarely find an egg sandwich that is satisfactory. I don’t expect them to be exactly like I make them, but I find so many bad egg sandwiches out there. And that tearoom menu had “egg and onion.” No, just NO. No need at all for onion on an egg tea sandwich!

    1. Reply
      September 24, 2018 at 7:09 am

      Jean, I was delighted you did such thorough research into Lovejoys tearoom!
      Aside from dodgy egg sandwiches, my main complaint with many (American?) tiered tea options is they serve the scones warm, but I want to eat the sandwiches first. What do you do about that?

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