Give Your Character a Surprise!

I love surprises. I love being surprised. I love surprising other people. And this past weekend, I pulled off a good one- I threw a Sweet 16 Birthday Party for my little girl (who’s obviously not a little girl anymore) and it was a huge, fun surprise! It was fun for me to plan, and fun for my daughter and her sneaky friends who were in on the covert scheme!

The expression on her face as she walked through the front door was priceless- filled with shock and confusion upon hearing her friends shout, “Surprise!” Her face lit up at the sight of them all gathered together- just for her. It was a take your breath away moment. A moment I’m sure she won’t ever forget.

Everyone should feel that kind of moment at some point in their lives. And I think your characters should feel that way too.

So how exactly do you create that take your breath away moment? A moment that catches your character off guard? Something so surprising or shocking that not only is your character surprised, but your reader is too?

Well, if you know your character, it should be easy. Think about what she loves. Maybe for Anna it’s kittens and hot fudge sundaes. Or think about what she wants. Maybe she wants to get the lead in the school play or a new clarinet. Or think about what she really needs like warm winter boots that don’t leak through the soles. Maybe there’s something that she really wants and needs. For example, maybe she wishes that her dad who’s been stationed in another country for many months could finally come back home for good.

Now that you have some ideas, decide what you want to surprise your character with. And make it big. Even if the surprise is small, you can write about it in a big way. For example, if you’re going to give Anna a hot fudge sundae, turn it into a big deal. Set the scene. Write about Anna’s banged up knee that happened from a fall off her bike. Write about her tears and her broken handlebars. Then, just when your reader feels awful for Anna, write about the table that Anna’s mom has filled with every topping you can think of. Add all her favorite flavors of ice cream and all her favorite sauces. Write about Anna’s walk into the kitchen and the smile that slowly creeps over her face when she sees the ice cream display before her. Write about her dried up tears and the hug between her and her mom. It may be just a little surprise, but for Anna it’s a big deal. And for your readers it will be too.

So how can you make the surprise for your character an even bigger deal? Choose something you know about her that’s even bigger- like missing her dad. For example, your readers are already aware already that Anna’s dad has been gone for a very long time and they know also that Anna misses him very much. Imagine the surprise they will feel (right along with Anna), when her dad shows up at the school auditorium, right before her big stage debut as the lead in the school play! Picture that surprise. 🙂

Our daily lives are full of big surprises and little ones. So if you want to create a story that keeps the reader turning the page, be sure to include a few of both in your character’s life too!

And remember…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”  ~Hilary Cooper 

So good luck with the surprises you’re planning and the amazing story you’re writing too!

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