A to Z Challenge, Writing Stuff

P is for Predictable

So … predictable. It can be boring. But it can also feel safe.

Personally, I like predictable – I like having a low-key, safe, boring life with very little surprises. I like a low-drama lifestyle and I’ll take predictable over chaotic any day of the week.

But you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you. See? I’m pretty predictable.

But I found one area that doesn’t welcome predictable – and that’s fiction writing.

(Wow. That was a clumsy segway, but whatever – we’re here, let’s explore it).

Predictable stories do not bother me if the outcome is really the only logical way for the story to end. I mean, happily ever after stories are warm and fuzzy, but I get impatient with them – life doesn’t always end happily ever after.

But being TOO unpredictable can be bad, too. Take the science fiction genre, for example – science fiction just seems so ….. OUT THERE.

(Get it? haha)

I mean, I’ve watched enough Star Trek episodes that somehow end up in left field and leave me rolling my eyes in disgust to know that I don’t care for stories where something suddenly happens at the last minute and with no apparent reason or cause and our hero/heroine somehow comes out of the situation unscathed.

It leaves a funny taste in my mouth and I know the author took the easy way out so he/she could end the story.

But with that said, I like twists. I like being surprised by an element I didn’t see coming.

I like unpredictable stories if they make sense to the overall story.

I saw a link to this article on Twitter, and I swear, I’m going to print this out and paste it somewhere where I can always remind myself of my silent contract between myself and my readers:

  • You won’t bore me.
  • You’ll either take me to places I’ve never been before, or to places that feel as familiar as where I grew up.
  • Love ‘em or hate ‘em, your characters should make an impression on me.
  • And whatever is coming, I don’t want to see it coming. Not all the time, anyway, and not from a long way off.

The article also gives four tips on how to keep things fresh and unpredictable:

(1) Know yourself, be yourself.
This is especially good advice for me because I will read a story, finish it and think, “WOW. If only I could write like that person.” And then I will write a piece of fiction and adopt that author’s voice. Which is fine, I suppose, it adds another level to my writing style, but I’m learning that I do indeed have my own writing personality and that it’s okay to just be me whenever I write. Hopefully someone out there will like it enough to KEEP reading.

(2) Know what you’re really writing, and why.
I definitely need to work on this one. I tend to get a story idea, think it about it for a few days and then POW, I’m off writing. Which is fine, and it’s certainly fun … until I get to about 10,000 words and I’m suddenly facing a blank wall. I have no idea where to go or any motivation to continue and I lose all enthusiasm for the story … until the next story idea comes rolling around. I honestly need to stop, think not only what my story is, but WHY I want to write it and WHAT message I want to give readers overall.

But that requires so much THINKING … (*whine-whine*)

(3) Hold nothing back. No half-measures, no timidity.
I can do this. I delight in torturing my characters. But I definitely need to think more outside the box.

(4) Know your characters.
I also definitely need to work on this one, too. My characters are shells, dried carcass skins discarded and left behind for some small child, or a squeamish female (like me, actually) to happen upon and squeal in terror over. I don’t truly know my characters until I start writing them and then they are CONSTANTLY surprising me and taking me in all sorts of directions I never even knew existed until I started writing. But I LIKE this aspect of writing. I LIKE being surprised when I’m writing. I just need to start looking at it more as a challenge than a nuisance whenever my characters back me, the writer, into a corner.

So writers, be unpredictable – your readers will thank you for it.


I’m participating in the A to Z challenge. Just post something every day with the appropriate letter (except for Sundays), and then submit your link to one of the hosts and don’t forget to visit other participants! Also, you can find other A to Z participants on Twitter via the #atozchallenge hashtag. (This trying to relate the alphabet to your life thing is HARD. It’s taxing my brain and oh look! A puddle of brain mass. Sweet).