Cheeky Pee Reads, blog tour feature, January 2017. It’s the bullet you don’t hear that kills you. Surprise is the lifeblood of a thriller. Insights into firing a silent bullet that will shock the reader.
Readers expect to be surprised. They’re trying to second-guess your story as well as longing to have an experience they’ve never had. They want to be introduced to something new, see the world in a different way, and it’s the author’s job to give it to them.
There are two kinds of surprises. Wild and real. Wild surprises come out of the blue with no foreshadowing, like a hit-and-run driver killing the terrorist leader in Die Hard and not Bruce Willis, the hero.
Real surprises come from an event that the reader hadn’t expected, but when it is revealed suddenly makes complete sense thanks to the ground being prepared earlier.
For example, the hero’s girlfriend calls the hero and tells him a really important meeting has come up and she can’t make their date. The hero is relieved. He’s on top of a building with a pair of binoculars, watching the villain in the building opposite. The hero doesn’t want to leave his post as his intel has informed him the villain is meeting a big crime boss any time now. Suddenly someone walks into the villain’s room. It’s the hero’s girlfriend (or wife, brother, boss, take your pick).
You lead your reader along the path they expect and then give them something they never dreamed of but feels real because it’s followed by a rush of insight, thanks to your foreshadowing.
Readers need surprises to hold their interest. They also need to care about the central character. There should always be a danger that the hero will lose the battle so the reader can feel his fear.
In Spare Me The Truth, I start the book with a brutal murder to grab the readers’ attention and set a level of fearful expectation for the safety of the hero.
Not long afterwards I then kill one of the major characters (I won’t tell you who!), which readers tell me was shocking and although unexpected, it made sense thanks to my preparing the ground.
Because I write a series, readers expect the two main protagonists to live, therefore the outcome is certain. However, although they may catch the villain, nothing in their lives is set in stone and the suspense moves to their personal lives. But no one knows how it will turn out. Which keeps readers turning those pages and waiting to be surprised.
©CJ Carver 2017