Subverting Audience Expectations - A Guest Post by Thriller Author, Jim Heskett

Today on my desk, I have multi-published, award winning author, Jim Heskett.

I'm going to give Jim this page now.

Subverting Audience Expectations

You might not think of the creator of Beavis and Butthead as being a master storyteller. That's fair. But, if you haven't seen Mike Judge's new show Silicon Valley, I would strongly recommend you check it out. It's chock full of excellent examples of Try/Fail cycles and subverting tropes. 

I'm going to give one example of how the show took a trope and flipped it on its head to make a surprising and fun plot twist.

(I'll be vague so as not to give major spoilers. Still some minor spoilers ahead.)

Our three heroes (Richard as the fearless leader) find themselves in a situation where they make a bad decision and are forced to work for someone they hate. It's a no-win scenario.

But, they come up with a plan: if they sabotage their own project, the boss will have no choice but to let them go, and then they get their freedom back.

They set out planning how they'll sabotage the project. There's an elaborate planning montage. The tension begins to build. It'll be hard to pull this off, and everything has to go as smoothly as silk.
And then, on the day they're going to execute their plan, they strut into the office. Knowing smiles on their faces.

And then Richard trips over a cord, and all the documents from their master plan come spilling out of his backpack, landing directly at their boss' feet.

BOOM... try... fail. And not only fail, but it was in an unexpected and fun manner. Half of the episode was devoted to how they were going to execute their vision, and then it was over in five seconds. FAIL.

This is an example of masterful storytelling. Make the audience expect one thing by playing to a trope... The Grand Plan to Foil the Villain. And then, subvert that grand plan by having them fail before they even have a chance to implement it.

But, if you know these characters (particularly awkward and bumbling Richard), you know it's entirely within character for him to do something like this. He fails all the time.

So, this is what is known as Surprising Yet Inevitable.

The sudden and impulsive failure is definitely surprising. Everything in the episode up to that point made it seem like they would finally pull this off and foil the bad guy. But it's also inevitable because Richard and his band of adventures are goofs and they screw up all the time.

Readers are savvy. They know where stories are headed. So, you have to work hard to take them by surprise. And taking them by surprise is a surefire way to delight them, and keep them coming back to you for more.

Are the twists in your stories surprising yet inevitable?

Definitely something to think about, Jim. Although, you're goofy too, but your stories never fail to surprise me. 

Jim has written a guide for authors on how to juggle writing and everything else. Since he has churned out one novel after another, best to see what he has to say. 

Check out The Juggling Author on Amazon: 

About Jim Heskett

Jim Heskett was born in the wilds of Oklahoma, raised by a pack of wolves with a station wagon and a membership card to the local public swimming pool. Just like the man in the John Denver song, he moved to Colorado in the summer of his 27th year and never looked back.

He fell in love with writing at the age of fourteen with a copy of Stephen King's The Shining. Poetry became his first outlet for teen angst, then later some screenplays, and eventually, short fiction, long fiction, and he also writes in the video game industry. In between, he worked a few careers that never successfully tickled his creative toes, and hasn't ever forgotten about Stephen King. You can find him huddled over a laptop at an undisclosed location in Colorado, dreaming up ways to kill beloved characters. 

He writes award-winning noir mysteries and thrillers (like Dennis Lehane or Elmore Leonard), with a dash of snark tossed in for good measure.

His book Wounded Animals is a 2015 finalist for Foreword Reviews thriller of the year
His book Nailgun Messiah is the winner of the 2016 eLit silver medal in the mystery/thriller category

Stalk Jim Heskett. He likes it!

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