10 Most Effective Ways to Surprise Your Readers

Updated: May 30, 2021

The surprise is a very crucial element in fiction. It is the factor that will help you increase the curiosity of your readers. The effect of a good surprise is refreshing to the readers as well as the writer. In the 21st century where there are millions of books with thousands of different plots, stories, and characters, a good surprise is just what you require to make your story stand out. Here are 10 ways to effectively surprise your readers.


1. TWIST THE PLOT

Now, this may turn out to be a quite difficult task but twisting your plot can help you to bring in your surprise element. Bronte’s legendary novel Jane Eyre is just the right example for this. The initial plot of the story was about a young girl’s struggle in life and somewhere in the middle, Bronte surprises her readers by changing the plot with a gothic twist, also managing not to lose the flow of the story. Twist your plot. Create changes that your readers won’t expect.





2. SURPRISE YOUR CHARACTERS

When you surprise your characters or your protagonist with a new situation, it also surprises your readers. When people read a story, they often try to contemplate the character’s mind. Halfway through the story, they must already have an idea about how your characters think and react. So, surprising your characters will surely surprise your readers.


3. EXPRESS DON’T EXPLAIN

This is basically the famous idea of ‘show don’t tell’. Do not warn your readers with words like suddenly, out of nowhere, unexpectedly, etc. Write your surprise as it is without explaining what is actually happening. It might take some effort to effectively surprise your readers and make them understand the twist without having to explain it. This way, the effect of your surprise will pertain longer on the reader’s mind.


4. KEEP YOUR CHARACTERS MYSTERIOUS

Although this is a very common idea often used by writers, it is still quite effective. Rather than revealing your protagonist’s or other character’s full identity, lead your characters through unexpected situations. Let your readers understand the character’s original identity along the way. The will help you keep up the curiosity of your readers. Slip in your surprise element through your characters or the situations that they are going to go through. This could help your story be more interesting and to gain the full attention of your readers.


5. BRING IN SOMETHING UNUSUAL

This could be anything. A new character, a bizarre situation, an unusual incident, etc. This will help you throw in your bait for the surprise. Bring in something that will make your reader curious about what happens next.


6. LET YOUR CHARACTERS BE OUT OF THEIR CHARACTER

The surprise does not necessarily have to be a situation or a new turn of events. You can also surprise your readers with the characters. Make your protagonist go through something unusual or rough, then surprise your readers by making your protagonist do something that he or she is unexpected to do. For example, make your naïve, kind, and well-behaved heroine speak up to an abuser. Such situations will help you keep your readers hooked on the story.


7. SKEPTICISM IS THE FOUNDATION

Now, you have to build your base for the surprise. Let your readers know that something fishy. Don’t make your story predictable, confuse your readers with a new baffling element in your story. This way, your reader won’t be able to leave the page without knowing what is going to happen.


8. HIT THEM WHEN THEY LEAST EXPECT IT

You threw in your bait, now you have to bring in your surprise twist. Let everything in your story go fine and when your reader is eased into the story, throw the bomb. Make something happen, a revelation, an incident, an obstacle, anything that is capable of blowing your reader’s mind. Hit them when they least expect it. That’s how you make your surprise work.



9. THINK LIKE A READER AND DO THE OPPOSITE

Yes, you heard me right. If you want your twist to be effective, then you have to think like a reader first. Brainstorm all the possibilities that will come to a reader’s mind when she reads your book. Now, do the unexpected. Make something happen which was not expected at all. This will blow your reader’s mind. Predictability is what usually ruins the surprise of a twist in a story. Take that factor out. Your readers will be caught off guard, which increases their interest in your story.


10. GIVE USUAL SITUATION UNUSUAL TWISTS

Right when things are going the right way, bring in your twists. This is a very common idea, but highly important if you want your story to be a success. The storm always comes after the calm, your readers will know that. So, anticipate them with calmness. Let your story go in a good flow and then make something happen.


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