In my last post I outlined the need for surprise in a novel. let me elaborate. An accomplished thriller writer draws you into their story by establishing characters and setting. You need to get comfortable as you read; settle into a false sense of place. Then, POW, you are woken out of your expectations to confront a dramatic shift in character (known as a character arc) or a sudden change of events that take the story in a new direction. In my last novel, this happened quite by chance. I was doing some substitute teaching and had a spare hour. During this time, I began writing and the change in events just “happened.” What happened? Aha, should I be giving that away? Let’s just say it surprised me and my readers more so when the book was released. Oh, I love surprises, but they must be believable and not too far-fetched; a device to keep you reading, keep you guessing and to keep the plot flowing and not stagnating.
The water in a flowing river ripples over rocks and this keeps it fresh. I hope my stories work like that—like a flowing stream that has a few eddies and a few quiet ponds, but then races downhill over rapids to arrive full of oxygen and life. Ask yourself this question as a writer; does my writing suck oxygen from the reader or pump oxygen into them? I have had the privilege of taking high school students down New Zealand’s Whanganui River. By the end of the trip they were all looking forward to more rapids and became exited when they could hear the roar of water ahead of them. Stories can be like that too.