About a year ago, I wrote this post about foreshadowing. My husband had started watching “Sons of Anarchy” and from the get-go, I knew who the bad baddie was going to be. I wasn’t much interested in watching the show, but I was even less interested when the obvious became TOO obvious.
I was disappointed again this weekend (there have been lots of disappointing weekends – from a fiction perspective, of course). Family Movie Night this past Friday started off as a heap of fun…the kids were thrilled when I told them they could feast on chips, popcorn, and sugary drinks for dinner (I did, too, actually…it was a long week). We watched “Big Hero Six,” which was a pretty good movie, except the stuff I’ve learned about fiction now means I’m set up for disappointment as soon as the movie begins.
SPOILER ALERT. At the beginning of the movie, you’re led to believe a particular scientist is the “bad” guy and the professor who runs the college robotics program that the hero’s brother attends is the good guy (and the dead one, after a building blows up).
Naturally, that’s not the case. For most of the movie, the evil guy (who’s stolen the hero’s invention) is presumed to be the “bad” scientist, but I could see from the get-go that it would be the robotics professor.
And I was right. **Sigh**
Becoming more knowledgeable about fiction now means that there’s very little that surprises me anymore. I see foreshadowing everywhere, too. And it makes me second-guess my own story. Will everyone see from a mile away who is involved with whom? Who the bad guy really is? (Okay, don’t tease me about the hero/heroine being a “sure thing”…it IS a romance, after all. SOME things are sacred.)
I suppose that brings up a bigger question: Is there anything truly shocking, surprising, and mind-blowing in fiction anymore? There are two stand-outs from my own personal history. “The Orphan Train” had a whiz-dinger that blindsided me. So did “The Fever Tree.” But I’ve read A LOT of books, and I can only come up with two?
I occasionally read reviews of books in the NY Times and Washington Post and they promise “an ending you wouldn’t have seen coming from miles away,” but I’m so (stupidly) sure of being disappointed by the hype that I end up avoiding the book entirely (that’s probably also stupid…I should just read the book, for Pete’s sake).
I’m pondering this problem of predictability as I approach the middle of my book outline. Things are starting to happen. I want to shake things up a bit. So my question to you, fair writer, is what do you do to throw your reader a curve ball? Or I suppose the REAL question is when do you know you need to throw a curve ball? Who helps you with that decision? Do you ask your beta readers if everything is too predictable? Do you suggest to your beta readers or critique partners ideas to see what they think? Do you divine it yourself from the writing gods (or goddesses)?