Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat! The Twists and Turns of the Big Surprise!

Happy Halloween! Do surprise endings really surprise? Do you love being surprised and tricked? Do you enjoy being led down a path filled with a string of puzzling red herrings and a frightening cast of characters only to discover that was not where the author was really headed? Or do you like the straightforward ending where you guessed the climax ahead of time and was really satisfied that you had figured it out correctly? You wanted the main characters to get together, you knew he or she couldn’t be the evil culprit, it was a simple but good story and you were pleased when everything played out just as you suspected.

The ‘Boo!’ I’m behind the door ending or the ‘gotcha’ moment can be great, but only if it’s well done. If it’s contrived or feels fake in any way, you’ve lost the element of surprise or diluted it so much that you probably shouldn’t have bothered. A good surprise is often one the reader did not see coming because of misdirection and because of false clues the author planted in a logical, progressive sequence.

For me, I always prefer to surprise. I like twists and turns, I like the tricks because they always turn out to be treats. When you think the book is about one thing, but it really turns out to be about another completely different thing, that’s what makes me want to read more by that particular author. When I first became interested in writing, I loved the clever puzzles of Agatha Christie and the suspenseful menace of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Rinehart wrote sixty novels and was the favorite of American presidents. Crime fascinated her. An editor once said that the key to publishing success was sex and murder. She, like other famous mystery and suspense writers did the ‘clue striptease.’ They revealed only a little at a time. I also enjoyed reading the stories of the English writer Alistair MacLean. In one of his famous stories “The Satan Bug,” you thought the villain had stolen a deadly virus merely to terrorize the English populace. But in reality, the villain only used the virus as a threat to empty the entire city of London so he could steal its most precious treasures. Surprise! This is what got me! The trick won me over and made me a fan of surprise endings for life. If I’ve surprised the reader and made him gasp (in a good way), I feel I’ve done my job.

What’s your favorite trick, your most devilish surprise ending? Fatal Attraction, when Glenn Close playing Alex Forrest shows up at the end to torment poor Anne Archer one more time and then Anne Archer shoots her or…BOO!


Next week: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy--What is Your Favorite Type of Romantic Hero to Read or Write About?

5 comments:

Chrisbails said...

I like the surprise endings. The ones that make you say WTF. Those are the best. I love/hate TV shows that do that. That totally leave you hanging. Like the season finales of shows do. Just happened with True Blood. A few people died and one in particular you wonder what is going to happen now.
christinebails@yahoo.com

Mary Ricksen said...

I know it's awful But when I was a kid we had a really nasty neighbor. He didn't want us to even walk on the sidewalk in front of his house. Even the neighborhood parents said to stay away he had kidnapped a child or something.
So when my elder brother and his friends put a bag of dog doo on his porch, set it on fire, and rang the bell. I laughed, God forgive me, but I did. He seemed nicer after that...

Christine Warner said...

I love the surprise endings in books and movies, when they are done right. But on the other hand, if there is a romance involved, I like to know that there will be a happily ever after for those characters....

Great post...

Nancy Jardine said...

A real twist at the end is always a great surprise. Can make all your guesses stand on their head! Good blog. Thank you.

Sandra Koehler said...

I did hate the surprise ending of "Big Love" when Bill died. I hated that because I enjoyed his character and was sad to see him go. So that was a bad surprise...Sandy/Alison