Let’s Talk Story, Part 3

Along with tension and suspense, stories should contain unpredictability. Readers often read simply because they want to know what happens. They want to satisfy their curiosity.

But what if the author has not created any curiosity? Well, chances are, those stories are still in manuscript form.

How then is curiosity created, especially because common wisdom says there are no new stories. I think the key to creating curiosity is surprise. The element of surprise can come in a number of places.

Characters can be surprising. Let’s take a romance, for instance. What if a married woman finds herself drawn to a secretive do-gooder while her relationship with her husband seems to grow colder and more distant by the day? What surprises could the characters hold? If you’ve read The Scarlet Pimpernel, you know the answer.

Some writers think they need to invent quirky, odd characters that haven’t been done before in order to surprise and avoid predictability. I think a greater challenge is to take the usual and make readers interested.

The movie Ever After did that with a retelling of Cinderella. The first surprise was the idea that the story wasn’t a story but history. The final twist was that Cinderella didn’t need to be rescued—she managed that on her own. But Prince Charming needed to overcome his prejudice against marrying a commoner. And he did! 😀

But more than characters can create curiosity and keep a story from being predictable. We’ll look at other elements next time.

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