During April's Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I wrote a post about Story Strengths with an S theme: Sarcasm, Sweet, Saucy/Sexy, Sincerity, Secrets, Silly, Sadness.
Thanks to a comment by Linda Luke, I realized I forgot one of my favorite S story elements. Surprise. Nothing will irritate me more than a well-written book with interesting characters that is overly predictable.
Although I will read all genres and authors, I shy away from romance novels. Too often, they follow the same formula: woman is immediately attracted to man, woman falls in love in 20 pages (if that!), man gives into heat but fears love, a misunderstanding occurs, man realizes he does love woman, man and woman ride off into the sunset.
But worse than formula is a surprise gone wrong. Case in point: Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. She had an interesting story, a child conceived as a bone marrow match for her sick older sister, but the surprise ending ruined the entire book for me. I thought the author took on a very sensitive and controversial topic, but copped out of taking a side with a surprise ending that didn't make sense or add anything to the story.
My favorite way to incorporate surprise is little by little, like small bursts of flavor in a delicious cake instead of a dill pickle in the middle of my cupcake. Too much and too wrong.
Another favorite: a book I don't think I'll like but end up loving. Come to think of it, that's the best kind of reading surprise.
Do you like the element of surprise when you read? As a writer, do you feel pressure to put something in your novel the reader's not expecting?