- An appreciation of language - the beauty of a turn of phrase that can delight as well as surprise should never be underestimated.
- An understanding of the nuances of the human condition - many of the best surprises occur only because an author has a grasp of the full idiosyncrasies of characters (both real and imagined).
- An ability to create parallel worlds full of quirks and charms that allow a reader to suspend disbelief.
- And, finally, the bravery required to take a book into rough uncharted waters...
Monday, October 19, 2009
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
How much do I love surprises? Let me count the ways...
I'm sitting in a hotel on Maui typing this blog all because my husband has a great knack for surprises - this one is an early birthday present and it's also the first time in five years we're having a vacation together...alone...(well if you don't count my laptop and current WIP which I carry with me like surrogate twins...) so you can imagine how much I love this surprise!
I also love books that surprise me. I love it when an author can genuinely deliver not just the shocks but also the delightful out-of-left-field moments which cause me to smile. I remember the first time I read Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series and how surprised I was that his brand of lunacy actually worked. I also remember reading the first Harry Potter book and catching hold of the same sense of magic I felt as a child reading. The element of surprise is one that I relish in a book. I love how Carlos Ruiz Zafron's Shadow of the Wind captures the essence of Gothic surprise that imbues the glorious Victorian novels that I adore and how Neil Gaimon's books (and quirky imagination) continue to delight and amuse me.
Surprises can be powerful things - they can draw a reader into a book in a way that is (I think) often more powerful than a mere plot twist or a shocking ending. They can take the form of an unsuspected insight into a character, a happy coincidence, or just the details of a world created that transports the reader's imagination. The element of surprise is however much harder to achieve than suspense or the power to shock and I think (in terms of craft) it requires:
I certainly don't believe I have mastered any of the above but when a book truly takes me by surprise, the effect is magical.
So when did a book last surprise you?