What I'm reading: The Last Assassin, by Barry Eisler
Thanks to Jess for the extra weekend posts. By the time this is posted, she's probably already had dinner, and I'll be getting everything together to go to my other daughter's house where I can work in a real kitchen.
Yesterday, we enjoyed a family day with our son and grandson. We went to the zoo, one of his favorite places. However, his pleasure seemed derived from the unexpected. He loves the giraffes, and the zoo has (I believe) the largest collection of any zoo in the US. We arrived just as they were releasing the herd from their night quarters into the outdoor paddock. After a moment or two watching, grandson decided it was more fun to play with the snow that clung to the paddock rails.
As we continued, the question was always, "Do you want to go see the … (insert animal name here)?" and the response was always "Yes." But along the route, even in full view of the elephant, tapir, okapi, or whatever, he was more interested in the "other" stuff.
There were animal-shaped benches along one path. Those were more fun than the animals. At the bear paddock, it wasn't the huge grizzly that captured his attention, but rather the fish in the pond. Turkeys and a moose couldn't compete with the the ducks swimming around their area. Likewise at the tiger paddock, where the cat was active and getting close to spectators. Grandson was excited about the rocks and waterfall.
Characters are more interesting when they do something unexpected. As writers, we must always be thinking of the "push-pull" where we move our characters in one direction, but then stick something else in their paths. In romance, it's often manifested in sexual tension. Readers expect the hero and heroine to behave in certain ways, yet things interfere, or maybe they're just not interested, or ready, or willing, to follow that path.In mystery, of course the author must fill the story with things that look like they're related to the case, but end up being dead ends.
Our son has been alone with Grandson for a couple of days. He decided to bake chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkle. Grandson loved the entire process, including the eating. Son posted pictures of the delighted (and obviously messy) child to family. The responses he got from 3 out of 4 relatives (all female, for the record) surprised him. I'm sure he expected praise for his talent and comments about how cute Grandson was. Instead, everyone gave him a hard time because he'd dressed the kid in white that day. In a story, you might have the father character trying to impress a woman, and in the above example, the result probably won't be what he wanted. He's expecting to get closer to the woman, and instead, might end up in a fight.
Surprises and twists keep the readers turning pages. It's a balancing act, because you can't have a character do something that goes against everything you've set up. You need to be sure you've laid the foundations for whatever responses you're writing.
But if the read is totally predictable, it's likely your reader might either give up the book, or worse, not pick up the next one(s).
Tomorrow, my guest, Joan Maze, will be talking about stepping out of the box. Be sure to come back.
And be sure to visit the Long And Short Review site to see their Easter scavenger hunt. They have loads of great prizes. I'm participating, which means there's an image hidden on my website which is one of the clues for the contest. It looks like this: