To view this notification widget you need to have JavaScript enabled. This notification widget was easily created with NotifySnack.
Home Tour About Read What's New Help Forums Join Login
My Account
Shop
Save
Support
E
Book
Store
Learn
About
Jesus
  




The HOME for Christian writers!
The Home for Christian Writers!

Forums

This area is only a small portion of FaithWriters. The main site can be joined HERE.
Shop & Save to SUPPORT FaithWriters.
Upgrade to SUPPORT FaithWriters.

Jan's Master Class--SURPRISE

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

Moderators: mikeedwards, glorybee

User avatar
Symphonic
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
 
Posts: 282
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:24 am
Location: Texas

Postby Symphonic » Mon Mar 02, 2009 12:57 pm

Jan, could you hear me clapping and cheering as I read your lesson? What a great summary of one of my favorite writing topics! And I loved reading everyone else’s stories. Gerald, your “Heartburn” story is hilarious!

I love mysteries, so I like surprises–unexpected twists, startling revelations–but (as you described so well, Jan) they have to make sense in the context of the story. A truly great mystery is one that is almost impossible to figure out the first time you read it... but the second time, you can trace all the clues and the subtle hints that point toward the solution.

As Steve mentioned, the techniques for plotting and hinting are very different in a full-length novel than in a 750-word story. (This is one of the lessons I’ve had to learn about writing for the Challenge!) Charles Dickens (my favorite author) was a master at this, but so was Agatha Christie.

I’m not a fan of the modern tendency to shock and surprise by coming up with a twist so vile that no sane person would have thought of it. I don’t watch a lot of television, so maybe I’m naive... but we recently visited my father-in-law and watched an episode of one of the Law and Order series. I couldn’t believe how many lurid “surprises” it managed to squeeze into an hour!

It reminded me of an awful mystery novel I read not long ago. I picked it up for a dollar at a used book store, and definitely paid too much. This is a very recent novel from a major publisher, and is plastered with rave reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Times. It’s got enough luridly unbelievable plot twists, it could almost be called Law and Order: Victorian England. And as for the climax... horrible. The identity of the villain is obvious for a long time (by process of elimination), but the “surprise” is that he has a completely different personality from the one that he’s had throughout the entire book. I thumbed back through the book, looking for any clues or subtle hints to his “real” personality, but failed to find a single one. The MC says,

“... I saw the lines of cruelty about the mouth and eyes that I had never noticed before. I had spent so much time with him; how could I not have seen it?”

And I responded mentally, Lady, that’s a darn good question.

But enough about my wasted dollar (and hours). I attempted a surprise ending for my Australia story, The Lost Gold of Carrion Gulch. It bombed with the judges, and there could be many reasons for that: maybe it wasn’t “Australian” enough, maybe it had too much plot for its length, etc. But someone also commented that they expected a different sort of treasure, and this made me wonder whether I’d led the reader in the wrong direction. Maybe I’d implied that this was going to end with the old prospector saying, just as he died, “Now I understand... the treasure... is Jesus...” I was trying for something more subtle–if the prospector had thought even once about reaching out to God, he would have found both Christ and the gold. But I’d welcome another opinion about this: did I mislead the reader here in an off-putting way?

As always, thanks for the opportunity to discuss these topics! Oh, how I’d love to sit down with a small group of you and talk... and talk... and talk...about writing!

Carol S.
Carol S.

User avatar
Verna
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 4539
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 9:10 pm
Location: NC

Postby Verna » Mon Mar 02, 2009 1:05 pm

Speaking about "surprise and Joseph," how about the morning after his wedding!

I did a couple with surprise endings. About the only clues I gave in this one was that it was a one-sided dialogue. I just did it to have fun and see if I could catch the reader.

http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article- ... p?id=20018

And once I wrote a true story a friend had told me ending with surprise "Bad Dog Pasquale."
Verna

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...
Proverb 17:22

Facebook author page: Verna Cole Mitchell
http://www.magnificomanuscripts.com/

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6053
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby glorybee » Mon Mar 02, 2009 1:26 pm

Carol, I just read your last treasure story for the first time, and the ending literally made me laugh out loud. Outstanding! I'd have been very disappointed if the "real" treasure had been anything other than what it was. I don't think you misled your readers at all.

I agree with you about the conversations with other writers...that's one of the best things about this class, and also about the FW conference. It'd be great to meet you there!
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6053
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby glorybee » Mon Mar 02, 2009 1:30 pm

Verna, that story is so cute, and I remember being totally surprised by the ending. I can just picture that little fella...it really is fun to be able to say "gotcha" to your readers, isn't it?
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
Symphonic
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
 
Posts: 282
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:24 am
Location: Texas

Postby Symphonic » Mon Mar 02, 2009 2:01 pm

Thanks, Jan. I feel better about "Lost Gold" now!

I would love to come to the conference, and I really hope I can find a way to be there. We're trying to save our pennies right now to go on a family vacation... and if I ever got back to Michigan, I'd want to go visit some old friends over in the southwestern part of the state, where I went to college. So it would probably be a very expensive trip. But I can dream!

Carol S.
Carol S.

User avatar
hwnj
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
Pencil 5 (200-299 Posts)
 
Posts: 232
Joined: Fri Nov 23, 2007 9:02 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby hwnj » Mon Mar 02, 2009 10:36 pm

I see that you are foreshadowing the next topic with the uncertainty of it's posting date. :D

Probably one of my favorite masters of the surprise ending is William Sydney Porter, aka O'Henry. I also enjoy Ellis Peters' mysteries, particularly the
Brother Cadfael books.

Ironically, I seem to be rather hypocritical when it comes to preferring reading fair play, but not writing it.

A Mouse Divided
The only clue is right before the surprise itself.

A Lovely Daughter
Again, there were no clues, though the feedback was pretty positive. You were quite right that I needed more words to have told that one better.

Ginger's Bright Idea
I think my unhinted at surprise in this one fell flat with some readers because the toy in question is not necessarily known to an international audience like we have here on FW.

Whirlwind Weekend
At risk of spoiling this surprise, the only hint was what was never actually stated, leaving the reader to fall back on stereotypes.

Well, I'm sure that that's more than enough!
Holly

"There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it." Edith Wharton

'It is better to be liked for the true you, than to be loved for who people think you are.'

"In order to realize the worth of the anchor, one needs to feel the stress of the storm." Daily Encouragement Net (Stephen & Brooksyne Weber)

My Profile

User avatar
Anniel
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 775
Joined: Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:27 pm
Location: Isle of Wight, UK

Postby Anniel » Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:36 am

I guess Shakespeare is a master of surprise..women dressed as men and all that.

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6053
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:07 am

A child is rushed to the emergency room after an accident, in dire need of surgery. The surgeon, however, takes one look at the boy and says "I can't operate on this child--he's my own son!" The doctor, however, is not the boy's father. Why can't the doctor operate?

The answer, of course, is that the doctor is the boy's mother.

It's amazing how many people, even in the 21st century, still get stumped by that one. It plays with our stereotypes about expected roles, and that's why I'm glad, Holly, that you posted those links...especially the last one, because it reminded me of another great way to surprise your audience.

People, do exactly what Holly did in one of your future writings--count on stereotyped pre-conceptions from your audience to provide the surprise. And try out that brain-teaser on people some time, and see how many get fooled by it!
Last edited by glorybee on Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6053
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:11 am

Annie, you're right that there's a lot of surprise in Shakespeare, but it's usually the people on stage that are surprised, not the audience!

At the end of Hamlet, the audience knows exactly where the poison is (sword, cup), but the fighters do not, and that's how everyone ends up dead.

In Romeo and Juliet, we all know that Juliet's not really dead--poor Romeo doesn't.

And of course, in all of those cross-dressing comedies, the audience knows who's who--if we can keep track!

I suppose you could almost call that 'anti-surprise'--although there's probably a literary term for it.

Thanks for the reminder, though--I love Shakespeare!
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
Allison
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 3704
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 2:45 am
Location: St. Peters, MO

Postby Allison » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:51 pm

glorybee wrote:Allison, those are EXCELLENT examples. Your hints are there, all right, but very subtle--until you know the surprise, and then they're GLARING. Perfect!

Any tips for us on what your thinking process is when you come up with these surprises?



SPOILER WARNING: Do not read the paragraphs below if you have not yet read the stories listed in my first post (page 1) and wish for the endings to be a surprise! (also, I apologize for all the scrolling you now have to do. :))
































































Okay. Now that I got THAT out of the way.... Jan, you asked for my thinking process when I come up with surprise endings. Usually, it starts with me coming up with what I would consider a boring or common idea, but it won't leave my head. So I try to come up with a unique way to present it.

In "Some Changes," I started out with the idea of a baby taking his first steps. But I thought that was boring. So I thought, 'What if my readers didn't know the MC was a baby until the end, when he actually takes the first steps?' So I tried to write in general terms, and not use anything that would give away that the MC was a baby.

In "Anna's List," I came up with the idea of waiting for Santa. But I thought that might be common, and again, a bit boring. I went from that to the story of Jesus telling his disciples to let the children come to Him. From there, I came up with the idea of presenting it as "Santa" and then switching to Jesus when Anna approaches Him.

With this one, the trick wasn't so much not giving away the ending, as much as it was not ruining the ending by providing details that wouldn't work. For example, I couldn't mention music playing through the PA system, or a mall. I also needed to choose names that would have been common in both time periods.

So to sum it up, most of my surprise ideas come from "tweaking" a common or boring idea. So don't toss out ideas just because you think they are common or boring. (Have I used those two words enough in this post?) If the ideas won't leave you, try to come up with a way to tweak them.
Image
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6053
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby glorybee » Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:56 pm

Thanks, Allison!
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
swfdoc1
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 853
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:31 pm

Postby swfdoc1 » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:45 pm

OK. Now that hinting time has come, I want to see what you all think about my attempt at Surprise that I said I was working on for Asia. The Hint is: Advanced, near the bottom, immediately below someone else's entry that has a one word title.

Based on the 3 comments I received prior to posting this (including one from Gerald), I think this was Surprise even though it occurred early (2 people talked about the "halves" of the piece).
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6053
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Postby glorybee » Mon Mar 09, 2009 5:52 pm

Wow, Steve! I'd love to spend a minute learning how your brain works! Yes, that was totally surprising--and an amazing metaphor.
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
swfdoc1
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 853
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:31 pm

Postby swfdoc1 » Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:02 pm

glorybee wrote:Wow, Steve! I'd love to spend a minute learning how your brain works!

A minute is about all it would take! :shock: On the other hand, a lot of us would like to spend about a year learning how YOUR brain works. :wink:
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

User avatar
srashmi
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 4102
Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 7:32 pm

Postby srashmi » Thu May 07, 2009 11:44 pm

1. The Wizard of Oz--Dorothy had the ability to go home the entire time. Also, the wizard was not as mighty and powerful as people thought.

2. From the Mixed-Up Flies of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler --Mrs. Frankweiler (the narrator) is telling the story of two runaway children to her lawyer who happens to be the grandfather of the missing kids.

3. The TV show 24--More surprises than I can list (besides I don't want to spoil it for anyone).

4. Harry Potter--Ron's pet rat is really a person who turned into a rat as a way of going into hiding.

I remember being on an airplane that was showing The Sixth Sense and people audibly gasped when the surprise was revealed.

Don't think I've ever put a surprise into a story. There are some great examples here, but I'm still not sure how to create one.

PreviousNext

Return to Jan's Writing Basics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


© MeasurelessMedia. All rights reservedTerms of Service



Jesus - True for You But not for Me      Website Builder     Build Website     Is Jesus God?    
Does God exist?     Build a writers website     Does truth exist?     Website online in minutes