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How can I write a big surprise?

Big surprise! Your story is absolutely predictable.—I often think it when I’m writing. But that’s a big problem. (Especially, because my class and I should write a skit for the graduation day. Last time it was, that of the last class, absolutely boring and unfunny. I just say anti-jokes in line.) How do I avoid it? Let your best tips jump into this thread.


I've been thinking about this for quite a while and eventually came to the conclusion that big surprises as the main selling point are higjly overrated. If the overall theme of a story is something that deals with mystery or betrayal, then surprises seem like a very good idea. But it's not something to be forced into a story that deal with completely different issues.

My approach is to first consider what the story is about and what its themes are and then I start to think about how these things can be given prominence through specific scenes or situations. Surprise is not always the right tool for the job. There are plenty of great and famous fantasy works that don't have any big surprise.


You don't need a big surprise, but if you have one, consider the use of foreshadowing, so that the reader might think--I should've seen that coming.

One way to avoid predictability is, when plotting, to consider cause and effect, and then for the effect, don't use the first one that comes to mind. Think on the other possibilities, and select one of those.


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
You have to figure out how you want your reader to expect it to end, and then figure out how it really ends. Drop some obvious hints for the first, and some more subtle hints for the second.

For example, in my superhero/ladybug fanfiction, the villain has the power to turn anyone having a bad day into a supervillain under his control. As things get bad for the characters, I want readers to believe the main character will be turned into a villain - which happens a lot in these fanfictions - but it's prevented at the last possible second with a sweet moment between the characters. I promised that sweet moment in the first chapter, but nobody took it seriously (as superheroes, their bad days have to be extra intense, so they consider themselves immune). But as things come to a boiling point, the notion of her being villain-ized comes up a couple of times, even as things keep getting worse, right into the end of the arc.


One really important thing to remember is the importance of having the story stick to the promise that is being made to the audience in the beginning (and marketing) of the work. Doing something really surprising is quite easy, but it almost certainly won't be a happy surprise if it is something too unexpected. A good surprise is something that makes readers think "I did not see that coming". A bad surprise makes them think "this is no longer the story I had been reading so far".
It might seem a fun idea to completely surprise the readers and make them realize that this is a completely different type of story than they thought, but in actual practice this doesn't work. If the later parts of the story suddenly get horrrific, then the story needs to start with a sense of impeding danger from the beginning. You can't begin with a happy story that gets the readers invested into the happy lives of nice people and then surprise them by turning it into a violent murder story. People who liked the happy beginning won't like the change to something completely different. People who like a violent murder story wouldn't even have started reading the book because they think it's a happy funny story.

K.S. Crooks

A big surprise could be in the extremeness of a character. They could be kinder or more evil or more obsessed than the reader ever expected. One act well beyond the limit of what the character has done before or what the reader would expect to be reasonable may be the type of surprise that has the desired effect.