Writing to surprise!

I read a Robert Frost quote earlier today, which I really liked and which goes like this:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

I like this quote for a couple of reasons. Firstly, just because it’s an awesome and thoughtful quote, and very true. But also because it’s something which rings particularly true for me – a line of thought with writing that I have often considered when I myself tell stories.

It comes back to that old argument about how much a writer plans their story, and how much they let their story roam where it will. I do think stories do need a certain amount of planning, and probably more than I have averaged so far in my writing life (something I am trying to rectify in my current habits), but I do think this quote hits on something really important – if it’s too predictable for yourself as a writer, it’s going to be way too predictable for the reader as well. Every now and then I let something happen in my stories that I didn’t see coming, and the odd person I let read my stories will often comment that they too didn’t expect that particular event, whatever it may be.

As for the first part, about the tears, I guess this is much the same. I have written a couple of passages of writing that have made me very uncomfortable, that have deeply upset me to write, and I suppose these would have a similar effect on whoever reads them if I were to show these to anybody (which I don’t think I have, often cos they are parts of stories that overall I dislike). I know some of my writing has made people cry, but that writing was stuff that when I wrote it felt more like an emotional purging – I didn’t get teary while putting it down but the whole process was cathartic in one way or another.

Anyway, if you feel your story lacks excitement, or you’re bored of it, why don’t you do something crazy and unexpected? Kill a character for no good reason, start a love triangle, make a character inherit a vast fortune and then make them lose it again. If you have developed your characters well in your head, you’ll know how they’re going to react and that in itself will become the next part of your story! If you surprise yourself, you’re bound to surprise your readers!

What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you think surprising yourself as a writer is important? If not, why not?

8 thoughts on “Writing to surprise!

  1. I don’t plan – not at all and it’s wonderful, people op in and out – events happen and yes at times I catch myself overwhelmed by the events – totally agree with you and of course Mr Frost

    • Glad to know! It’s something I find does divide writers, as I know some really like to plan their stories out fully before they even write a jot. But I know I would become bored of my writing if I did that. But hey, some writers I’m sure can do that and still keep their stories great, so whatever works for them I suppose 🙂

  2. You’ve made some very good points, here, and I can relate to them all. It’s rather surprising how many times my characters have gone places where I didn’t expect! Sometimes, ideas just seem to pop out from nowhere. As for the tears, many times I have pushed through a scene with my eyes so bleary from moisture I could barely read the words on the screen. A writer needs to dig deep to find those emotional moments. One, in particular, I tried to read out loud at my book signing and became so overwhelmed I had to pause as tears streamed down my face. Needless to say, I don’t read that particular scene out loud any more! 🙂

    • I think they can be some of the most rewarding moments as a writer, when an idea pops out of nowhere and you just think “hmmm, I wonder what happens if I follow this along…” hahaha. That is awesome that you have written scenes that have been that emotionally powerful they’ve evoked feelings that strong from you yourself – I can imagine it would be hard to push through but ultimately worth it. I get the feeling this novel I’m starting to work on now is going to be one of those ones for me that is going to force me to dig very deep and probably will be quite upsetting and confronting, but I’m hoping it’ll produce something amazing as a result. Guess time will tell 😛

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