OMFG No Wai!: How to shock your readers in style!
(Warning: This blog may contain some spoilers for various novels/films. Read at your own risk)
When writing a book, it is important to consider your readers. By that I mean how do you want them to react to a certain scene? Do you want them to be happy? Sad? Scared? It is important to connect with the emotions of your readers and bring a feeling from them during a scene.
However, for me personally, when I wrote my new Draconica novels, I liked to think “How can I piss off my readers?” XD
Now before you think that’s just me being cynical, let me clarify something. I love all my fans and readers, in fact some of my best friends are hardcore fans of my books. I appreciate all the support they give me. But secretly I LOVE doing things that shock them or make them angry. The reason? Shock value!
There’s a lot to be said for shock value in stories – but my opinion is that it if is done correctly, it can be a huge boon to your story. It can twist your story in a different direction, especially if your readers don’t see it coming. Remember the Red Wedding in A Song of Ice and Fire when Robb and Catelyn Stark were brutally murdered? Or even when Ned Stark was beheaded in the first book of the series? Or, for those who love their video games, Final Fantasy 7 when Aerith was murdered by Sepiroth. These are just some of the twists that audiences were not expecting – but in many ways made the story that much more interesting. After all, nothing is more painful than seeing characters killed off – and the subsequent agony from the audience.
Hell, even I’VE killed off some of my main characters in my stories in the past. And usually I let them stay dead – but if they DO come back, then they aren’t the same. Hell, when my next Draconica novel comes out, I’ve got a scene in it that I’m sure will make most of my readers hate me. I’ve actually almost lost a friendship because of it!
However, despite the pain it may cause, the audience WILL want to follow the story – hoping that this character will be avenged or (in some cases) they will come back to life somehow
But it’s not just character death that can shock a reader – having someone do something out of character can also be equally as alarming. Whether it’s having your goodie-two-shoes hero do something really nasty, or having your evil villain showing a merciful and gentle side, these twists can really add to character development and draw your readers deeper into their psychology. The Doctor from Doctor Who is a great example of this – he’s done some really nasty things in the past for “The Greater Good” and even been an asshole on a few occasions. But we still love him for that.
Some authors that I’ve spoken to (whether via Facebook, forums, etc) would probably tell you that you need to be careful with upsetting or angering your readers in case you lose them. This I don’t agree with. For me, the best authors are the ones who aren’t afraid to take risks, throw a curve ball into the mix, shock their readers. And personally I LOVE it when a story throws in a twist like that and shocks me. It makes me want to read on and find out where this goes! As for losing readers – I call BS to this. Did George R R Martin lose any readers after the Red Wedding? Did J.K. Rowling lose readers when she killed off Dumbledore? They may have lost a few, but the true fans stayed with them – and that’s what will happen with your readers. True fans and readers are like your closest friends – they may be angry with you for a while, but they will ALWAYS stand by you and support you. Not only that, but they will also spread word of mouth about how this book has such a shocking twist and possibly get you MORE fans!
Of course, there are rules to adding in shock value to a story. For one thing, DO NOT do it just for the sake of it – anything shocking must have a plot based reason. Ned Stark wasn’t just killed off just for the shock value, his death started the War of the Five Kings, so you need to make sure that your shocking scene has a point. Similarly, try not to make it so obvious what is going to happen. Nothing ruins a shock more than if the readers can see it coming a mile off. There’s nothing wrong with foreshadowing it, as long as it’s subtle. The best shocks come when the readers don’t expect it, when it’s thrown on them,
Pissing your readers off can sometimes be the best way to keep your readers attention. Harlan Ellison once called it a “noble endeavour” to shock people and I agree. So don’t be afraid to take risks with your novel. Kill off that main character that everyone loves, have your hero/heroine be a complete dick once in a while, or throw in a twist that totally changes the emphasis of the story. The TRUE fans will love you no matter what you do – and will respect you more for brave storytelling. Once they get past cursing you that is. XD
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan lives Canterbury, Kent, UK. A huge fan of both Fantasy and Manga, he has a style that combines both within his writing, which lets him tell stories that are both dramatic and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. He picked up a love of Fantasy stories after reading The Lord of the Rings, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and numerous Roald Dahl novels.
Dan also runs his own website, blog and a wiki page dedicated to the world of Draconica and also reviews books. He has also written a short comic book strip called Queller, which was published in an anthology for the comic Lighting Strike Presents... He is currently in the process of writing a script for a video game and has also been a judge for a book competition at his local school. When not writing, he plays guitar in a band called Rage of Silence. He likes all kinds of music – but has a taste for metal!
Authors who have inspired Dan are Douglas Adams, J.R.R Tolkien, Harlan Ellison, Alan Moore, Joss Whedon, H.P Lovecraft, George R.R Martin and Hiromu Arakawa.
Contact Dan via the following links:
WEBSITE & BLOG: www.pandragondan.co.uk
TWITTER: @PandragonDan and @Draconicaseries
WIKI PAGE: http://trappedondraconica.wikia.com
Also check out the TV Tropes pages of both Legacy of the Dragonkin and Trapped on Draconica by Brian Wilkerson!
TRAPPED ON DRACONICA:
LEGACY OF THE DRAGONKIN: