I love being surprised by books. Even more, I love surprising my readers with my stories. The very best surprises are the ones you can look back at and think you should have seen coming. For that to work, the writer needs to leave a trail of bread crumbs.
The results can be incredibly rewarding, even if crafting that trail can be a real challenge. And sometimes, the challenge continues even after the story ends.
I worked for months on the breadcrumbs for one of my favorite reveals in Pack, and love how it turned out. Trouble is, I didn’t really think beyond that book. I was writing Pack for fun, just for me, and didn’t know I’d ever write more in that series (and boy, howdie, am I going to write more in that series). I hadn’t realized that the big reveal was going to cause a major problem for the next book. You see, the big reveal is the existence of a certain person…and he’s the hero in the sequel.
So, after building this mystery, and (hopefully) flooring my readers with this reveal, I’m left trying to write a blurb for the second book that never mentions the character by name! When I share snippets, or tweet lines, I’ve started calling him “Sam” 🙂
This isn’t the only time I’ve faced this issue. In one of the Department of Homeworld Security novellas, there’s a similar reveal that’s spoiled if I mention the character’s name when sharing bits from the current novella I’m working on (and the novel I’m writing after it 😀 ).
One of my favorite experiences working with my editor at the traditional publishing house where I had my start was when she told me that she didn’t see the biggest plot twist of The Summer Park Psychics coming (close to the end of the third book). I worked in little clues and Easter Eggs throughout the series to give it the emotional resonance I wanted.
I like my stories to stand alone. At the same time, I love building mysteries and coming up with twists that can take several books to reveal.
I haven’t figured out what to do about this quandary, except to keep writing, keep dreaming, and keep putting out the stories that make my heart sing. And to trust that the rest will sort itself out eventually 🙂