Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Joy and Sorrow of the Unexpected

I'm not going to lie. One of my favorite comments from readers is that I always surprise them. My stories never go where they anticipate and characters sometimes do the complete opposite of what was expected.

Honestly, I am always terrified that my fans can see every plot point coming down the pike and aren't surprised at all by events in the story. I was especially fearful about The Vigilante in the As The World Dies Trilogy, but many fans said they never suspected the real culprit. Others did see it plain as day, but the majority did not. That was an enormous relief.

There are definitely certain events that completely surprised readers in the As The World Dies Trilogy. I get plenty of emails that say, "WTF!" I can usually tell exactly where a reader is from the contents of an email.

"Oh, my God! You killed ________. All bets are off!" write the fans of the story.

I have received that phrase multiple times.

The vampire novels have also garnered emails where people are utterly shocked by some of the twists and turns of the narrative. Perhaps because they have grown so used to the paranormal romance and urban fantasy traditional narratives, my vampires (which I consider old school) freak them out.

For example: The more "human" vampire slowly becomes more like his true nature as the book progresses, not vice versa. But then again, in my mind, I was telling a horror story and didn't really think about any particular set of rules (in paranormal romance for example, there HAS to be a happy ending).

As a writer, the fear is always there that you're just copying someone else subconsciously and that what you've written lacks any originality. Therefore, when a character or an event in a book completely shocks a reader, I give myself a mental high five. When my plot is full of unexpected twists and turns as far as the reader is concerned, I'm thrilled.

Yes, writers have a lot of neurosis. This is just another one.

When people ask me what I write, I say, "Horror." I really don't think about Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy, etc labels when it comes to my writing. I'm just trying to write a really scary story. It may have elements of romance in it, but I don't consider any of my work "romance" of any kind. Since I operate label free in my own head (Tor may have other ideas), I just write what works for me. And then I worry like crazy that what I just wrote is horrible and that the plot is phoned in and...

Well, you get the picture.

But lately, I have been embracing my ability to surprise readers. I'm finally accepting it as a strength in my writing. I recognized this when I sent out my synopsis for the sequel to The Tale of the Vampire Bride to test readers. They were very surprised and a little unsettled by some of the events that transpire in the second book. What they had anticipated happening in the story, did not and though they were thrilled with what did happen, they were also shocked.

As I get ready to move forward on my next project, I hope that I will once again surprise readers with my twisted ideas and turn out a book they will love.

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