In Search of the Unexpected

September 1, 2017


What makes a story great?


When you read a book and everything happens exactly the way you expect it to happen, do you enjoy the book? If there is no mystery, no surprise, nothing unexpected, does it keep your attention?


The greatest stories are full of unexpected twists and turns. An unexpected setting. A character with a unique quirk. A twist in the action that you didn’t see coming. Without these surprises, readers tend to get bored. They don’t want to read the same story line over and over again. They are looking for something new and different, something that captures their imaginations and emotions in a fresh way.


One sunny day, I was sitting in a neighborhood park, watching children laugh and swing on the playground. It was a happy scene that is very typical and predictable. But as the sun went down, parents called to the children and left. The swings stilled. The same scene became eerily quiet. As the evening shadows grew, the playground shifted and became like a dark scary structure against the night sky. Suddenly, the setting was something not at all typical. I began to ask myself, “What would happen on a playground at night?”


Those unexpected surprises are what gives your stories life and excitement. Don’t always write about typical places or people. Think about what could be different and how that will change your story.

WRITE IT OUT: Make a list of ordinary places or people. Then change each one to make them unique. Take a place and move it to a different time period. Give an ordinary person a secret or a unique character trait. Then put that character into a situation where that secret or trait is forced out of them. Write a scene or a story and see where it leads you. Don’t be afraid to go down the path of the unfamiliar.

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CAROLYN BENNET FRAISER is a published writer and creative writing instructor in Brevard, North Carolina, where she enjoys helping youth find their passion for writing. 

Carolyn is available to speak to children and youth about creative writing at your school or special event. 

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@ 2019 CAROLYN BENNETT FRAISER. All Rights Reserved.