Shock vs. Subverted Expectations

Story Empire

literary twist (gears in the mind)

Ciao, SEers! The last two times I chatted with you, we were talking about clichés in fiction, namely in horror and in mystery and sci-fi. After revealing potential solutions, we discussed the fact that the common element in the solutions was that they all subverted the readers’ expectations.

Today, I want to discuss the difference between shocking the reader and subverting their expectations.

Shock for shock’s sake, unless you’re going for a gore-factor in horror, isn’t a good thing. (Even then, that’s not necessarily a good thing.) You might get the reader to gasp and recoil, but you also might make them put your book down and walk away. Shock shouldn’t disgust or irritate or frustrate. There needs to be a purpose and intent behind everything you do. There should be breadcrumbs leading to every reveal, and when the moment happens, the wow-factor shouldn’t be negative.

Hence the…

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