The “Oh My God I Can’t Believe It!” Moment

The Sweet Spot. That moment in the book where readers universally proclaim, preferably out loud, that they never saw that coming. It’s what writers strive for in books, in movies, and in TV. I experienced one last night during “Once Upon A Time.” I totally did not see it coming when the blue fairy turned out to be Cora in disguise. It gave me such a thrill when I realized the writers had fooled me. Yet, at the same time it made so much sense. Of course the blue fairy would never offer dark magic to Snow, even to save her mother’s life. Magic has a price and to save her mother she would have to take another’s life. Snow loves her mother but she is good at heart and even for her mother she can’t take an innocent life.

So how do you do it? How do you lead your readers/audience to think one way and then blindside them with something completely different? At the same time, that “something completely different” must seem more logical and right than the thing they were expecting. Such moments don’t just happen during the process of writing. They have to be planned for; engineered from the beginning. One way to approach it would be to think of the one thing no one would expect to happen, and then work backwards from that. You have to create the motivation and a believable foundation for it to work otherwise it will seem contrived. It’s the type of moment that people will go back and examine the story to see if it holds up. If it doesn’t, then you’ll tick off a lot of readers. If it does work, then you’ll thrill them. It’s not easy. You have to open your mind to the unexpected and then see if there is a way you can make it work. Sometimes it can help to brainstorm with a writing buddy. Play the “what if” game. What if the defendant is actually guilty? What if the seemingly innocuous neighbor is actually a terrorist? What if everything you thought was true is actually false? Can you make that work? If not, does it lead you to something else that would work? You have to take a risk if you want your readers to say “Oh My God I Can’t Believe It!”

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