How to Write Unforeseen Events in Your Novels

How to Write Unforeseen Events in Your Novels

By on Dec 26, 2016 in Fiction, Writing & Editing

Unforeseen events give spice to a novel, and turn it from a tightly plotted piece into a masterpiece that will remain in the readers’ minds for years to come. Just look at your favorite books. What is it that makes them so memorable and so enjoyable that you want to reread them, over and over again? The answer is always the same. Your favorite novels have a tightly woven plot, relatable and likable characters that have flaws and make credible mistakes, and last, but not least, they have numerous unforeseen events that make the whole. You might think that a tight plot and compelling characters are enough – and they are, for a novel that is good, or even excellent. Well, if unforeseen events can turn your novel from good to a masterpiece, how do you write them in your novel?

You plan them

All writers have different writing methods. Some writers write down most of the scenes from their novel on little post-it notes, or index cards, in different colors, and then string them up before beginning to write, or as they are writing. Some plot everything from start to finish, some sit down and write until they stop, some use every writing method available without worrying too much, as long as it works. When it comes to writing unforeseen events, you need to plan them, whichever writing method you are using. When you need to write a scene, take a look at the previous scenes. Discard the first thing that comes to your mind – that’s the cliché. Discard the second thing – that’s the obvious one. Take the time to write down all the what if scenarios you can think of. Imagine where they go and how they change the overall story. Then, repeat the process with the next scene.

The “What If” exercise

One writing rule that can never be debunked is that the more you write, the more you learn about writing. In the same manner, the more you play the “what if” game, the more creative you will be. Since planning all of the unforeseen events in your novel might take years, try practicing the “what if” game, until looking for unusual scenarios for consecutive scenes becomes second nature to you. Once a day is enough – and you don’t even need to write it down. Simply imagine it. Think of where you left your story last and where you wanted to go, all the way till the end. Then, create at least ten different what if scenarios for your next scene – and keep going until you discover how the scenarios change your story. When you surprise your own self, you have completed the exercise successfully. Next day, repeat the game. You don’t even need to think of the novel you are currently working. All you need to do is imagine a scene that’s frozen in time, waiting for you to take it in many different directions.

Keep it logical

Unforeseen events are not events that happen out of the blue. There must be a reason why the unforeseen event happens. You can use many things to establish this. You can use the universe of your novel, especially if it’s a fantasy world. Dangers lurk everywhere, even in our normal world, so there is always something that can happen which can be forewarned or even foreshadowed, though you should save foreshadowing for the turning points in your novel. Unforeseen events have more of an entertainment role in a book, but they still need to make sense and fit within the plot. You can try to change a scene you have already written before, but that does not generate tension. See whether you can change the dialogue a bit, alter some of the things that have been said and done, and you will have your unforeseen event.

It’s not always about danger

Often, the unforeseen events are not dangerous at all. They are funny instead. When it comes to writing a great novel, every aspect of it is connected. As such, if your novel lacks humor, and if the characters are going through a difficult time that does not allow for humor, you need to bring in the humor in creative ways. Irony is your friend in this situation, however, do not take it too far until it stops being funny, unless danger has been your intention all along and your unforeseen event is a grim one. On another note, someone trying to open a can of tuna using a dull knife, struggling and puffing and making angry remarks, can be quite entertaining – if it makes sense in terms of his or her character, of course. Always make sure that whatever happens is actually in line with how the characters would behave. A character that is always cool and connected, but is a bit of a control freak, would lose it if they are very late for their flight, but they would not react if everything is going according to plan.

Do not force them

Once you start focusing on how much your scenes perfectly fall in line and none of them appears surprising to you, you will try to force the unforeseen events in it. You should avoid trying to make every scene surprising – or, more surprising than it already is. As long as your scenes do not follow a clichéd sequence of cause and event, then you need to work only on the scenes that are necessary, but a bit dull. For example, skip your introductory chapter and begin with the action. But, do not write the backstory immediately after the first three paragraphs. If you want to introduce your characters, simply tell your readers. You can add the explanation later. Keep the action going until the pace slows down to reveal who they actually are. However, do not strive to make every scene an action scene full of unexpected dangers and suspense – you will only tire your readers this way. Keep the pace balanced, and try to make your story more interesting by spicing up the slow scenes without overdoing it.

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.


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