As you’re well aware, surprise is the magic behind a story…
and there’s no better place to surprise the reader than with your story turns. After all turns and reveals are there to push the story in a new direction and if you can do that without the reader anticipating, you’ve got them on the hook.
If you frequent the site here, you know you should always hit your turns as hard as you can. The more extreme and intense the better… but here’s a tip you may have not realized.
Once you have your major turns plotted out, go back through your outline and make sure you foreshadow the opposite of those turns.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Let me go grab one of my story outlines, in my horror/noir novel WIP… ohh crap, that midpoint turn is way too complicated… hang on…
Ok, I’ll use the First Act Turn of Samurai Onryo… The first act turn reads something to the effect of “Main character accepts the evil god of death’s offer.”
So you don’t have to know the story to understand this, take it at face value. If it sounds bad and creepy and something a normal person wouldn’t do to you… you’re on point.
While you would expect it to come as a surprise that Kazuo (the main character) of my samurai story make’s a pact with the devil… I could have made it even more impactful by dropping a few bits and pieces earlier, foreshadowing the opposite of that turn.
I could have shown Kazuo devoutly religious. Or maybe a scene where he’s very superstitious about the devil… Really anything to push the reader away from making any kind of association that Kazuo might in fact make a pact with the devil.
Be careful not to break the continuity or logic of the story… You don’t want to deliver moments completely out of character or go off on a tangent without narrative drive, merely to foreshadow a turn.
You don’t want to foreshadow it so strongly, the reader no longer believes the surprise…
But if you take the time to recognize your major turns and go back to throw some pieces of stinky cheese out there to get the reader off the scent of what you’re up to, you’re practically guaranteed bigger more engaging surprises. ▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.