Maybe! Are you surprised?

Surprise may be something you avoid.

Years ago, a friend’s husband asked me to get his wife out of the house on the day of her surprise birthday party.

“It’s your birthday! What do you want to do? My treat!”

“I want to see Life is Beautiful.”

“For your birthday? Won’t it be depressing?”

“Yes! I’ve been dying to see it and if I don’t see it now, I won’t get to. Come on. it’s my birthday.”

“Okay. Sure.”

She started crying about half-way through. She cried through the credits. She cried on the drive home.

And I know that home is filled with people ready to jump out and shout, “Surprise!”

But I’m crying too and trying not to panic.

I believe her husband said something along the lines of, “What the hell have you done to my wife?” Then he laughed. Everyone laughed. Eventually she laughed too.

That’s also when I swore off WWII films. Usually by the end I am crying and I feel like I will never stop. But that’s another post.

Sometimes when I’m writing, I surprise myself. Yes, I know I’m writing it, but as I realize where the story is going to go, I think–hmm. I didn’t see that coming. Because I don’t outline. I don’t plan. I just start with a sentence and build on that. Once in a while I have a general idea, but that’s it.

And there are those moments when I’m driving or in the shower (these seem to be common idea springing places–why is that?), and idea surprises me. A that’s-it moment!

With any luck, the story will surprise the reader—-in a good way. Not in the what-in-the-hell-is-going-on way. More in the oh-my-gosh-I’ve-got-to-keep-reading way. This I have no idea if I manage.

Some people love to spoil surprises. They might open presents Christmas Eve. When I was a teenager, my father’s girlfriend’s family did this. I would refuse, and then be the only person opening presents Christmas morning.

And some other folks say things like, “I know what is about to happen…” “Oh this mystery is easy to figure out…” “I saw that coming a mile away…”

I hate watching movies with these people. “Yes, you are clever. Thanks for ruining the film for me, Clever Clogs.”

Well, I’ve written story number 22. I don’t know if it is a surprise. I tossed in some violence—-it may be surprising or just over the top. Hard to say.

2 thoughts on “Maybe! Are you surprised?

  1. I’m afraid I’m one of those Clever Clogs people sometimes. When The Missus and I are watching one of our favorite crime shows — like Castle or The Mentalist — I often find myself suddenly startled by a crazy possibility, a little twist that I’d love to see the writers try, and just blurt it out. (Happened just last night, watching a recording of The Mentalist‘s season finale.) I’d like to say this is a writer’s enthusiasm for storytelling bursting out uncontrollably and joyfully, but maybe there’s a bit of the “Bet YOU haven’t thought of this yet!” sensibility in it, too.

    People who admit to flipping ahead to the next (or last!) chapter or page of a book “just to see” drive me crazy, though. They should be banned for life from reading fiction after the first violation.

    That’s a great story about “prepping” your friend for her surprise party by taking her to see Life Is Beautiful. šŸ™‚

    1. Oh, I don’t mind if someone is excited about the story and blurts out a fun possibility. I’ve done that. That means you’re enjoying the show. I don’t like it when someone just picks the story apart and finds all the flaws. Well, it depends. Every film/show/book/everything has flaws. But I see it as a balance. As long as the fun/engaging bits outweigh the problems, I don’t care about the problems. And I don’t want to bother with them, especially while experiencing the story. Now, if at some point (and obviously this tipping point is different for different people) the flaws outweigh the fun, then I just stop watching.

      And yes, going to the back of the book. That’s got to stop.

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