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Of hats and rabbits

Watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat is fun mostly because you don't know how the trick works. Once you start writing, you sometimes begin to notice how other writers sneak the bunny into the chapeau, and it spoils the trick for you. I had a friend who loved John Sayles' movies and brought over Lone Star, a 1996 film in which a strong subplot is the rekindling of an “old high school romance” between an Anglo sheriff's son and a young Mexican American woman. (Spoiler alert! Stop reading if you want to watch this movie) The two characters had such tremendous attraction for each other that I immediately said, “I sure hope they never find out they're brother and sister.” My friend gave me a startled and somewhat annoyed look. “Why would you say that?” she asked. “Because,” I said, invoking writerly wisdom, “that's the worst thing that could happen to them.”

Well, of course, guess what we found out about an hour later? Having figured out the rabbit was there, seeing it appear wasn't nearly as neat a trick for me as it should have been.

I have a writer friend, mindyklasky, who is in turn, good friends with Nancy Kress. Mindy went to see The Sixth Sense with Nancy, and sure enough, Nancy guessed the big secret less than halfway through the movie. I sure never saw that rabbit coming.

I also didn't see the one in Mindy's newest book When Good Wishes Go Bad. Mindy snuck a good sized rabbit into the story, and when it popped out of its hiding place, I was delighted. It's always great to see a fine craftsman at work. Everyone loves the magic of a good book.

Read any good magic tricks— er, surprise endings lately?





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Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
tracy_d74
May. 17th, 2010 10:58 pm (UTC)
I really pondered this one. I have always been the first person to figure out the smoke and mirrors in a movie or book. ( I did not however see the ending in The Sixth Sense). I don't know that I have been surprised by any endings. I have read books that I cannot see how a character is going to get out of a situation. Things look so impossible. I am not surprised by how it comes together, though. Wait. The Book Thief. Not so much what happened but the amount of what happened.
karen_w_newton
May. 17th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
I have not read The Book Thief but I have heard good things about it.
tracy_d74
May. 18th, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
Oh. The story and writing are great. It is on my favs list. You must have Kleenex handy. It is worth every tear.
mikandra
May. 17th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
I love a good surprise, but there have been very few books that have surprised me. One surprise that blew me away was the revelation that comes about two-thirds into C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner. I know I talk a lot about these books, but they're full of clever surprises and this one I didn't see coming at all.

Possibly the very best surprise ever I've encountered in a kids book, of all things, in the last volume of Emily Rodda's first Deltora Quest series. OMG, I didn't see that one coming! And that's a series for primary school kids.

On the other hand, surprises are personal. As you already mentioned, there were huge differences between you and the people you were with in guessing these surprises correctly. Some people will get it, others won't.

What I've been suffering a fair bit recently is a 'reverse surprise', where I can see all the foundations for a surprise, but the author hasn't capitalised on it and the whole story ends in a limp whimper that leaves me frustrated. But that's probably a typical case of writer-brain.
karen_w_newton
May. 17th, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
>where I can see all the foundations for a surprise, but the author hasn't capitalised on it and the whole story ends in a limp whimper that leaves me frustrated

Sort of like finding rabbit bones but no actual rabbit! that's bad, I think. Someone needed a good crit group.
mikandra
May. 17th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
to be honest, I have the suspicion that writers slave a lot over their first book, have it critted and beta-read, but once they secure a publishing contract some writers rely too much on the same group of friends for critting, or don't even have any readers at all for second and subsequent books.
mindyklasky
May. 18th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
And a lot of writers get surprised by their contract clauses, obligating them to turn in a new book, 12 months after they deliver the first one. That transition, from planning, writing, rewriting, and revising over many years, to preparing a sequel in one, can be truly shocking!
mtlawson
May. 17th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
I wasn't expecting the ending to Karen Miller's (karenmiller) Innocent Mage. I'd already had an idea about what would happen, and instead she went straight for the jugular.
karen_w_newton
May. 17th, 2010 11:22 pm (UTC)
Now that's good! You're expecting a rabbit and instead she pulls out a snake! Cool! Is that a fantasy?
mtlawson
May. 18th, 2010 01:25 am (UTC)
Yep. High Fantasy, with some Scottish overtones, but not too much to be cloying.
mikandra
May. 17th, 2010 11:38 pm (UTC)
I agree I wasn't really expecting that either, but since she suddenly (and imo prematurely) killed off the interesting and my most favourite characters in the book, I wasn't so terribly interested in reading on.
mtlawson
May. 18th, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
Well, things do get more interesting in the second book, and the prophecy does turn out to be oh so very true.

I would normally have given up on a book like that, but for some reason I kept reading. I have to admit that I'm glad I did.
mikandra
May. 18th, 2010 01:29 am (UTC)
I eventually got around to book 2, but I found it full of unrealised potential, and the ending was, to me, way too pat.
mtlawson
May. 18th, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)
The one thing I really wanted Asher to do at the end would have been incredibly selfish of him --and I freely admit it, too-- but I would have said that everyone involved had richly earned it.
bogwitch64
May. 18th, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)
Book club books? I almost ALWAYS predict how they're going to go, point by point, straight through to the end. There is a pattern to each genre, and by now, I've read so much mainstream that I know what's going to go down.

However!

I was greatly surprised by one HUGE event/surprise in The Shadow of the Wind. Not just me--everyone was! But then when you look back on things, it's all there. Very well done.
bondo_ba
May. 18th, 2010 01:04 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... I'm one of those people who tends to sppot the rabbit sneaking in way before the author wants me to, but I've recently edited a collection that contained not one but TWO stories that caught me totally off guard. Can't say more right no, but I'll blog it when it gets released.
karen_w_newton
May. 18th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
I'll look forward to it!
mindyklasky
May. 18th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
::grin::

Many thanks for the kind words. GOOD/BAD is my favorite book since GIRL'S GUIDE - in part because of that twist!
karen_w_newton
May. 18th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
It sure caught me! The previous one was really funny, but this one had a real kicker, too!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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