Embrace the power of play!

Tip of the Day

May 9, 2022

The secret to humor is surprise. -Aristotle

Dear Writers,

Happy Mother's Day!

This week, I visited my first school IN PERSON since Feb 2020. I'll admit, getting ready, I was nervous. But the second I arrived, everything fell into place, thanks to (of course) a school of GREAT teachers and librarians and kids! 

No surprise, I have missed seeing kids in person, making human Rube Goldberg machines, talking about books and reading, and gusto. No surprise there. This first visit was SO MUCH FUN.

The students I met with had many wonderful questions about writing, reading, finding ideas, being yourself, and how we define success. We talked about gusto and enjoying the reading/writing process. And then, one reader asked me if my characters and story ever surprise me...

(Of course, they do! I love when that happens!)

It got me thinking about surprises...surprises during the surprises increase page turning...and humor...and tension. I went home and thought about my WIP and how the plot turns should surprise the reader. When I am surprised as a reader, I am always so happy! Nothing is more satisfying for me as a reader than feeling surprised by a character's actions or dive into a story with twists and turns that are more than inevitable. These surprises don't come out of nowhere. They stem from logic. It's like the writer knows what I want to happen...and what I dread will happen. 

When it comes to surprising the reader, we must contemplate logic, anticipation, and preparation.

Are you ready to stretch? Reach? Groan? Embrace the power of play?

In his essay "On Writing," Raymond Carver writes, "I overheard the writer Geoffrey Wolff say 'No cheap tricks' to a group of writing students. That should go on a three-by-five card. I'd amend it to 'No tricks.' Period. I hate tricks."

I say: creating surprises in your story is a lot like cooking. You need to make your mise-en-place BEFORE you turn on the stove top. You need to be organized. 

This is what I'm doing this week as I get ready for this next round:

Today, make a list of the five biggest plot turns in your story. The pivot points.

Make a list of revision goals, too. 

For each big plot turn, think about: what has motivated the characters to get to this point? (What do they want?) Think about the WHY. Why do they want what they want? And then think about the READER. What does the reader hope will happen? What do they DREAD will happen? What will tug at your readers' hearts? And then PLAY.

Consider what different reactions to each of these plot turns will take your story.

You might surprise yourself! 

Have a great writing week!

Vaccinations have never been more important. Please protect yourself and those in your community by getting the jabs as soon as you can. 


Are you ready to talk about your stories? 

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