Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Your Story's Predictability: a storycraft workshop

This post is part of a series to augment the Tips for Writing Fiction available for free download.

This and other writing workshops are gathered in my Workshops Directory for you to explore.

Find my world workshops in the Worldbuilding Directory.

Readers anticipate a story as it unfolds, but the best stories delight them anyway. Their expectations are right, but delight and surprise unfold along with their predictions. They are wowed by the tale they were expecting all along.

Good storycraft embraces this tendency for readers to predict outcomes, leveraging it as a foreshadowing tool to enhance intrigue and suspense. Foreshadow different details of your events in separate places, and you give your readers the satisfaction of putting the clues together. But to keep your readers interested, also plant vague or misleading details to influence their conclusions.

As storytellers, let's concede that certain events have to stay predictable. Readers need to feel like your story makes sense, and that it reaches a satisfactory conclusion. But within that basic predictability, elaborate details can unfold in breathtaking and unexpected ways.

Check these Tips for Writing Fiction to see more workshops!

Structural outcomes, such as a resolution at the story's end, are predictable but usually necessary for the reader's comfort. These major plot events are often obvious before their occurrence, but you can utilize the fact that readers are going to see it coming. In my Tales of the Known World saga, I concede the basic convergence of my plot to free foreshadowing space for plot twists and misdirection.

Plot twists are by nature unexpected, so foreshadowing them isn't strictly necessary. However, good storycraft will weave in a few allusions to the upcoming twist to foster a sense of continuity within the tale. An unexpected turn does your story no good if readers find it jarring and illogical.

Conversely, misguiding details are the guise that shrouds your plot twist until its big revelation. Since readers are going to predict an outcome for your story, offer them lots of reasons to predict something other than the real twist. Of course, try to ensure that your plot twist is more exciting and satisfying than the false outcomes would have been, or readers might be disappointed with your story's true direction.

That's it for this post! Check out the latest writing workshops for more.

Download Tips for Writing Fiction here, or start your adventure below.

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