Saturday, November 27, 2010

Learning about Writing from Snooki

Sometimes things are not as they seem. (Snooki reading)

I like to occasionally read through my @DouglasCootey Twitter stream with Flipboard on my iPad. I've been on Twitter for over three years and the endless stream of status updates can become boring at times. But Flipboard reformats the tweets as articles and images displayed inline in magazine format, making the experience new for me, especially when the emphasis is on design and art.

Last month as I browsed I came across an entry by Scott Nicholson (@hauntedcomputer). It featured the notorious Snooki from Jersey Shore. I don't watch the show, but I've seen a few clips. I've seen enough of the show to recognize her. I never took Snooki to be the studious type, yet there she was looking absolutely bookwormish. I felt a moment of chagrin since I had previously dismissed her as uninteresting along with her show months ago. So I tapped on her pic, then almost dropped my iPad in surprise when the full image loaded.

Can you learn to surprise your readers? (Snooki reading)

This surprise wasn't anything Scott Nicholson had intended. It was a random moment of serendipity caused by how Flipboard presented the tweet. Yet it had the feeling of having been done on purpose.

I've thought long and hard about that moment of surprise since then. The image was misleading, but not manipulative. I was set up to expect one thing, then given something unexpected. Could I put the same twists into my writing?

It seemed to me that if I wanted to keep my writing fresh, I needed to be able to pull off twists and turns in unexpected ways. Although many readers have seen and read it all, there is something to be said about gently misleading the reader away from the obvious to keep the story filled with surprise. After all, isn't this what mystery writers have been doing for decades?

JK Rowling would do the same when writing Harry Potter. She would finish the story, then go back and insert her "red herrings". I didn't always agree with Rowling's red herrings, but her stories kept my, and millions of others', interest because of those misleading twists in the story.

My job will be to find my own way of misleading the reader so that my story isn't obvious. After I finish my first draft of #snkrz, I will be pouring over the manuscript to see if there are places where I could add these surprises. And in time, I will be able to weave those surprises into the story as I write it.
Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.