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The Surprise Factor in Fiction

By on Monday, Apr 11, 2011 in Craft | 0 comments

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Had a big family event this weekend at my house that required a lot of preparation, so yesterday I gave myself permission to vege out, enjoy the 80+ degee weather (yes, even in Cleveland, it appears spring has arrived (and I say that with a great deal of caution)!), and dig into Brava, Valentine, Adriana Trigiani’s continuation of Valentine Roncalli’s trials and tribulations.

I mentioned before how much Trigiani’s language gets to me–it’s sensory and bold.  But even moreso, it surprises.  I really believe that this is one of the marks of experienced authors–they know how to make you sit up and say wow!  how did she ever think of that?  

In these two books, I see the surprise factor on two levels–one is in the descriptions of things–the metaphors are so fresh and startling.  (No cliches here, no siree!)   But also in the plot.  It reminds me of the Donald Maass workbook, when he asks questions like, what could these characters possibly do to create MORE conflict, MORE tension?  And as a reader, I think, OMG, she actually did that?!  I can’t believe it!  It makes it impossible to stop reading.

Of course, this is women’s fiction.  In a romance novel, the female would share her lead role with a man, and there would be much less introspection and description.  But the external (plot-driven) journey and emotional jouney of the woman and her subsequent empowerment as a result of that journey are front and center in both genres.

And I really believe that the surprises are key in any good book. 

At this point in my career, I judge a book by how much it can pull me out of “analysis” mode and into the story where I forget that I am a writer–I forget who I am and where I am–I dissolve into the story. 

That is why I love to read.  And write.

Okay, back to work.  I hope my house can stay clean for just one more day–it’s already starting to go around the edges…