How It’s Done Dept.

     Some fiction writers consciously strive to keep their readers off-balance, groping for a purchase on what’s really happening in the story. This can be boiled down to an actual technique. The key, of course, is surprise.

     There are several kinds of surprise in fiction. There are plot surprises, where an event that seems at first completely disconnected from the story being told intrudes on the action and compels the characters to deviate sharply from their courses. There are character surprises, where a Marquee or an important Supporting Cast character suddenly reveals a motivation or a trait to which the author had given no previous hint. There are stylistic surprises, in which the author deliberately fractures his own writing simply to jar the reader into paying attention. (You might imagine that I detest stylistic surprises. You’d be right.)

     Then there are surprises of this sort:

     She always ground her own beans. She did not feel that her coffee tasted better because of this, she simply liked the process of grinding beans: the cool crumple of the bag from the freezer, the gentle rattle of beans across the countertop, the therapeutic release of pounding them into grounds with a hammer for several minutes.

     [Fink and Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale]

     I don’t have a name for that kind. It does sound therapeutic though, doesn’t it?

1 comment

  1. That’s a never happen in reality more than once surprise. Until my old home burns down there will still be tiny bits of coffee embedded in the cracks.

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