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  • September 2010
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The “Wow” Factor

The “Wow” Factor

As entertainment goes, there is a level one must ascend to reach to bring an audience. No matter the genre of the book, no matter the genre of the movie, the writer must bring something to the table that is different or fresh. This is no easy task, to say the least.

I have been given the ability to predict the outcome of any book or movie. I know I’m not the only person with this ability, and I’m sure most can predict at an earlier time, but the fact is, this ability is a curse. I want to be “wow”ed, I want to put the book down immediately to attempt to comprehend the turn of events, and I want to leave the theater saying, “Wow, I never would have guessed.”

I don’t believe this is a “born-ability”, I believe what makes this possible is that I pay attention to detail. Of course, most writers drop hints for the reader or viewer to keep them interested. This works, but there must be more ambiguity. Let me explain.

Predicting plot twists does not feed my ego. I get frustrated that I was even able to predict the outcome in the first place because I want to be “wow”ed. The plot, characters, and setting must intertwine beautifully and punch me in the gut with something so off-the-wall it leaves me saying “wow!” I wrote a post earlier about writing blind and I believe this works well with ambiguity.

If the author is writing blind, with only one or two scenes plotted out ahead of time, then the author might be surprised with the turn of events. If the author is “wow”ed, the reader will also be, without a doubt. The author needs to let go and let the characters take them wherever they please. Feeding off the characters, one might be surprised on where they proceed.

Keep in mind, plotting a book ahead of time with multiple twists may also fall victim to predictability. If the author knows how the book is mapped out, he/she won’t be interested in the journey because he/she already knows where it’s going.

As cliched as it is, writing a completely normal world, with the day to day activities normal and interactions normal, but ending it with the main character in a psychiatric ward and all of it was in his head, still works out well; if written well. The reader or viewer is immersed in the characters “normal” world with the “normal drama” tagging along with it, but then is T-boned with a plot twist only leaving them with a dropped jaw and the word “wow” slowly, methodically spilling out of their mouth.

Plot twisting “wow” factor must be handled with care. Too many twists will leave the reader confused and frustrated, too little may result in boredom. I’m not here claiming that books with twists are the only good ones, because that is not true. If and when you plan a plot twist, avoid predictability.

Joshua Ludeker

Author of Letters to a Dandelion, available at Amazon.

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