Probably not. Windfalls are like that. Losses too. We’re taken by surprise. Suddenly we’re hurtling the wrong direction down the highway. Assumptions flip over. The world spins upside down. Coins fall out of our pockets, or into them. We’re weightless. We’re falling, or rising, unsure when or where we’ll come to ground.
Turnabouts and reversals are dramatic in fiction, too. They’re also rare. In most manuscripts things unfold in a familiar pattern. Tension may be high but we’re pretty sure where we’re heading. The expected destination arrives.
Turning your protagonist’s world upside down is hard to do. It’s messy. It’s scary. But, oh, the impact on the reader is huge. Here are some prompts to help you reverse directions in your story.
- Do your protagonist’s fortunes rise or fall? Pick a character whose fortunes will do the reverse. Develop and add.
- Pick an ally of your protagonist. What’s the worst betrayal this character could do? Do it. Pick an enemy. What’s the most improbable way in which this enemy could help? Do it.
- Where is your protagonist heading right now? Shut down that road. Force a detour. What changes the most? How does your protagonist change as well?
- Create a mind-fuck: About what is your protagonist utterly, irrevocably right? Pull the rug. Make her utterly wrong. List the implications. Enact each one.
- Pick a character. Drop a bomb. Destroy or transform his world. Nothing is as imagined. Everything is different. Work backward to make this character’s foundations rock solid. Work forward to scatter the wreckage.
- Send a gift to your protagonist. Make it huge. What problem does it solve? What’s its hidden cost? Add.
- What’s one thing your protagonist dearly hopes for? What would make that impossible? Do it. What does your protagonist get instead? Quietly plant that earlier.
The weightless moment when the roller coaster tops the highest peak, the scary plunge about to begin, is breathless and alive. To create that effect in your fiction you’ve first got to construct the roller coaster rise. Crank your characters up, up, up.then fling them out into the blue.
Will they fly or crash? That’s up to you. Either way, there’s going to be a radical change of direction-and a weightless, breathless, exhilarating moment in your story.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s peggyhr