The ‘of course!’ moment is when a Reader suddenly understands something pivotal about the plot, or one of the characters. To me, the moment should feel like a light bulb going off in the Reader’s head, or that moment of triumph when the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle falls into place. The problem, as always, is how to get there.
If your breadcrumb trail is too broad, the Reader will guess the ‘of course!’ moment long before it happens, resulting in a boring anticlimax. But if you don’t leave enough breadcrumbs, the Reader will feel cheated because the moment will have little connection to what’s gone on before, and they will have had no part in working out the great reveal.
Of course, this all assumes that the writer isn’t trying to cheat. I can’t say it’s happened to me a lot, but I have read a few books in which the writer paints him or herself into a corner, and then brings in a hitherto unknown, secret weapon that demolishes all in front of it. Or gives one of the characters a god-like power that wasn’t there before, and which none of the villains can resist. In other words, a cheat.
In my not so humble opinion, we writers create worlds, and those worlds should have rules which all of our characters obey. If we are going to change those rules half way through, there must be a compelling reason for it, and it must be presented to the Reader bit by bit until the change becomes a new rule rather than just a ‘get out of jail’ card.
In my own writing, I try to leave small, apparently irrelevant breadcrumbs all the way through my stories. Some actually remain as irrelevant titbits, but others grow until they become a necessary part of some ‘of course!’ moment.
In the Innerscape trilogy, I introduced Kenneth Wu’s signature scent [lemon] very early in the first book, more to flesh out his character than anything else. By the last book, however, the scent of lemon triggers a breakdown in his Grandmother, and helps fool Miira when she sees Kenneth’s avatar at Jaimie’s house.
A far more critical breadcrumb trail involved the Innerscape avatars themselves. Identity and deception are two of the main themes of Innerscape, but I wanted Readers to feel a sense of shock when they realise that the staff avatars can be used by anyone. I started laying breadcrumbs in book 1 by having David the sound technician join Miira’s orientation wearing Stanley’s avatar. The importance of those avatars continues until it reaches its climax in book 3.
I won’t tell you what that climax is, but I hope it gave Readers an ‘of course!’ moment. 😀
Do you consciously, or unconsciously, create ‘of course!’ moments in your own writing? I’m particularly interested in what the plotters amongst you have to say. Do you plan these moments right from the start? Or do you realise their significance only as you write?
It’s Saturday here already, and I have a hot date with an mmo. Have a great weekend everyone. 🙂
p.s. is anyone have trouble accessing images in their media library? I can’t seem to go back beyond 2017. 😦