It is true. I saw Abraham Lincoln today. No it was not the movie and no it was not a hallucination. I was driving my car this morning through town and Abraham crossed the street in front of me, dressed in his signature black suit and tall stove-pipe hat. Today in my town we celebrated Juneteenth. If you don’t know what that is (and you really should if you live in the US) it is a celebration of the announcement in Texas in 1865 of the abolition of slavery. (The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1862, but it took time to bring some of the states under the new law). So needless to say, Abraham Lincoln played a part in the festivities today.
So why am I telling you this? Because when I saw good old Abe today, I couldn’t help but smile (after the initial shock). But we often do that when we experience the unexpected, right? Shock followed by strong emotion. The same is true in books. Writers provide their readers with the unexpected. Now, I know you are thinking to yourself that I talked about the ‘big reveal’ in yesterday’s blog and isn’t this the same thing? Not really.
To me the unexpected doesn’t have to be a turning point moment in the book. In fact, the unexpected is often more powerful if it applies to a less significant point in the story. It can be a characteristic or a minor twist that provides a poignant or funny moment. Isn’t life at its best sometimes when we plow through the day-to-day and something out of the ordinary happens? The same goes with our stories. Find something that will provide your readers with a ‘wow moment’ and a corresponding emotion, whether that be sad or happy. Engage your reader with your characters and let them feel their fears, laughter, tears, humiliation, or jubilation.
Ultimately you want to keep you readers guessing. If your reader already knows every point of your plot, then what is the point of them reading it to begin with? (Rhetorical question, you really don’t need to answer that.)