Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wild Rides vs. Sunday Drives

By Darvell Hunt

Consider the following phrase:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.”

Most people will recognize this beginning and probably have certain expectations about where you are going with it. A good writer will deliver on those expectations.

However, consider the following alternate completion of this proverb:

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; give a cat a fish, and you will have to feed it for a lifetime!”

A great writer will not only change the expectations of the reader, but deliver on the new expectations. In this case, the reader may have thought he or she knew what was coming next, but the writer changed that direction, even in mid-sentence, and supplied something that was NOT expected; nevertheless, the result was a rewarding conclusion, and we introduced some surprise into the equation, as well as some humor.

Readers typically like to anticipate what is coming, because when those expectations are met, the reader feels smart. However, unexpected twists and turns can take the reader into uncharted territory and this can result in rewards many times greater than what they were originally expecting. Feeling smart is great, but feeling wonderment is better.

I think it’s okay to lead a reader to an expected conclusion, but I think it’s better to give them whiplash and take them for a ride. A pleasant Sunday drive can be a rewarding experience, but it rarely competes with a wild roller coaster ride.

Try to aim for that exciting roller coaster ride. The reader can visit their grandparents if they wish to experience a Sunday drive.

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