I recently caught an interview with Aaron Sorkin about the new season of “Newsroom.” He explained how he generates tension when viewers already know what the main plot twists are going to be – the current season deals with the 2012 election. It’s hard to surprise your readers when your major story developments are literally last year’s news.
This problem shows up in writing more often than you might imagine. Writers of historical fiction have to deal with the fact that history happened and we’re stuck with it. A lot of mysteries have to spell out the situation that leads to the killing before the body drops, which is hard to do without having readers guess the victim. And sometimes the nature of the story just makes some developments inevitable.
There are techniques that can help you disguise these plot twists — I’ve collected a few on my website — but these techniques only go so far. How do you generate surprise or maintain tension when your readers can see what’s coming? [Read more…]