I thoroughly enjoy a story when I have no idea where it’s going, which makes me wonder just how predictable I’ve made my own story. Will each new event be met by the reader with a nod, or even a groan? Will they be shouting out the next scenes before they happen, like turn by turn directions? If they already know the ending, is the story ruined?
Everyone wants to write an original story. Many writers aim for a twist ending or big reveal that no one saw coming. While both targets are difficult to hit and high scoring, they’re not the sole point-makers on the board.
A good story is more than its sequence of events or its explosive ending. After all, most stories are just variations of hundreds of other novels already written, and they are scooped up and devoured by book lovers every day. A good story is written well, the setting is immersive, the characters are engaging, and it moves like a river. You might see the rock formation up ahead, but that doesn’t make it any less scary or imposing.
I don’t believe in ruined endings or spoilers. You can tell me every detail of the book and I can still enjoy reading it. A few weeks back I was telling someone the synopsis of my next book, Ghost City, and he guessed what the ghosts really were within seconds. Some writers may have been set back or disheartened by this, but I didn’t care.
The big mystery of my novel is the important thing for the characters. The adventure of following along in the characters’ discovery is the important thing for the readers. If my readers have fun and put together clues quicker than the characters, I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.
Readers really should be given the opportunity to guess what’s coming next, and writers should be providing these foreshadow moments. If the surprise ends up being so far from what was expected and the reader can’t recall any hints at its possibility, they may be soured to the whole story anyway. Don’t worry about how predictable you are. Just don’t be boring.
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I have written a couple of short stories. I enjoy giving the reader a glimpse into the future while the story is evolving. Staying in my third person voice, it is as if me, the writer, has added a small nugget for the reader to sample.
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Those nuggets are fun. You smile to yourself and wonder, “who’s gonna catch this one?”
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