“Don’t let your characters act predictably. Keep it fresh. Keep us guessing. We want to be surprised, not bored.”
Ruggedly handsome mystery novelist Richard Castle said:
“Life should be an adventure. You want to know why I killed Derrick [Storm]? There were no more surprises. I knew exactly what was going to happen every moment of every scene. It’s just like these parties. They become so predictable.”
The point is, it can be downright tricky to actually DO this. My golden rule for keeping characters, reactions and situations unpredictable is threefold:
- Brainstorm several possible reactions/actions your character could take for a given scene. Write them down.
- Cross off at least the first two. You don’t want to use these; they’re likely too obvious.
- Review the rest of your list, especially the last few options. Play around with the possibilities. Ask yourself if any are a) mildly realistic, b) intriguing to readers. Chances are, you’ll find a scenario with a lot more oomph and surprise than you initially thought. Have some fun with it! Instead of having your heroine fight off that nasty zombie were-bear, what if she lassos it and rides it into battle on the side of good? Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Your readers won’t either.