30 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Surprise!

  1. That the “good guy” wasn’t such a “good guy” after all!

    Thanks for the interesting question, Terry. Have a great weekend.

    • Thanks, Joe. When you discovered he wasn’t such a good guy, had your subconscious already laid the groundwork, or did you have to go back and change things? If you’re a plotter, I assume this happens in the plotting stages, but would still require rethinking.
      Between vaccinations and isolations, we’re going to have a small family Seder this weekend.

  2. I once had a wife, deep in Act 2, refuse to leave the house and go move in with her sister, as my outline dictated. (The husband was being stalked.) I found it quite surprising she was so adamant, and we had a bit of an argument. But it turns out she was absolutely right. I adjusted the outline and the book was better for it.

    • Glad you listened, JSB. As a ‘planster’, I often find I’ve foreshadowed these surprises. When a character pointed out he was a trained pianist, about 1/3 of the way through the book, there was only one line that didn’t fit.

      • My empathy. I, the writer, did not know the killer in my last novel until more than 2/3s the way through the first draft. Definite surprise because even I thought it was someone else. Ah, the life of a pantser.

  3. A joyous Passover to you and your family, Terry.

    Biggest surprise happened when a villain died two-thirds of the way through a book. Although that required a lot of plot scrambling, it resulted in a major character being arrested for murder. That raised the stakes and improved the story in a big way.

    As you say, the subconscious already knew that the surprise needed to happen and had planted seeds earlier.

    • When in doubt, throw in a dead body! And I’ll bet readers were surprised, too.

  4. That my 15 year old antagonist wasn’t merely a *mean girl* but narcissistic, amoral, and sympathetic as well.

  5. While writing my latest thriller an important secondary character disappeared. One minute she was in the backyard. And the next, gone! I had no idea where she went or what happened to her. Took me a while to figure it out. 😀

  6. In my first Empowered novel, I surprised myself big time when I realized that the weaselly and vaguely creepy guy in the criminal group Mathilda had infiltrated was actually an infiltrator as well. Alas, he paid the ultimate price for that when the psychopathic crime boss found out.

    • Thanks, Dale. That kind of reminds me of several television shows where the undercover cops are arresting other undercover cops. Sounds like a fun discovery for you.

  7. Second draft: my MC revealed to me that she had collected Monarch butterfly figurines from the time she was a teenager. I asked her why. She told me, and the answer completely blew me away, sending me into research mode.

    Her passion for them explained quite a bit about… *no spoiler*. 🙂

    • Ah, the research rabbit holes! I changed an entire book’s premise based on looking something up that was supposed to be a quick mention. Fortunately, I hadn’t started writing it yet.

  8. When the badass assassin who was to help my MC complete the rest of his adventure sat down to meet him for the first time and turned out to be a woman. Not sure who was more surprised, me or my protagonist. Turns out she was far more interesting than the guy I thought it would be ever could have been, without ever needing to dip into even a hint of a romantic subplot. Her true gender also laid the groundwork for a bombshell of an ending that never would have happened otherwise.

    • Those surprises are the best, Gregg. I’ve had a character tell me he was gay, and another one turned out to be trans. Wasn’t how I’d pictured them, but who was I to argue. They knew themselves better than I did at that point.

  9. The climactic scene of my first novel had the heroine trapped in an isolated office building with the bad guy. As the situation deteriorated, a policewoman barged into the office. Imagine my shock to discover it wasn’t a policewoman at all, but one of my major characters who had bumbled into the scene while wearing her costume from a play. I had no idea what she was going to do. Neither did she.

  10. I create my characters for specific plot and thematic needs so they may provide me with little tidbits of info about themselves, but only one, whom I’ve talked about here before, ever appeared on the page and said “Nope. You’ve got me all wrong.”

    In my science fiction romance’s first scene with my heroine Mara, I decided to give her an alien pet to make the scene more otherworldly, and I chose an animal similar to a cat but with long rabbit-style ears because I wanted the pet to be relatable to non-science fiction readers.  

    Floppy, the rab-cat, hopped up onto Mara’s lap and promptly told me he was as intelligent as a human, he would take care of Mara–no human male needed, and he was in the story until the end.  Being a well-trained human slave, I agreed, and he became the most popular character I ever wrote.

  11. My “villain” took a backseat to the MC’s love interest who turned out to be far more nefarious than the planned antagonist.
    This didn’t happen overnight, but the depth of it surprised even me when I realized the truth!
    (And yes, it definitely surprised my MC!)

    • I’m seeing a bit of a trend here, with most surprises relating to the bad guys. Thanks for sharing your story surprise, Cyn

  12. When I was writing the reveal of the villain/antagonist in A Promise to Protect, I got halfway down the page and said, “uh uh. Wrong guy. Turned out the killer was someone else altogether and I had to go back and beef up his part.

    • I had no idea who my killer was in my first mystery until I looked at my tracking board and noticed a character had shown up at every crime scene. His reason was legitimate, which made it more fun. Had to layer in one or two red herrings, but that was about it.

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