Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Gift

by Anna Jo Christopher from the May 24, 2010 issue

Tagline: After 20 years of marriage, Carol knew everything there was to know about Dean. Or did she?

In A Nutshell: Carol is about to celebrate her twentieth anniversary, but she's not as happy as she should have been because husband Dean has been AWOL lately, helping his brother with home improvement projects. Turns out he was really constructing a bookcase for her as an anniversary gift. Awww...

Observations: Perhaps the trouble with analyzing the WW stories week after week is that I have become very savvy about spotting "surprises," and I did see this one coming the minute I saw this:

Carol gazed at the pile of books stacked beside her bed. Dean often teased her good-naturedly about her addiction with romance novels.

But this is actually great writing. Christopher plants that knowledge in the readers' minds in the middle of the story as part of Carol's backstory. The paragraph is actually describing the couple's early history when she worked at a bookstore and meanders on to talk about her current stack of books.

Then, a little while later, when the writer (and Dean) unveil the surprise, the reader thinks, "Oh! That's right! She's an avid reader! What a perfect gift!"

So, if you're planning to surprise the reader, you have to be clever and non-obtrusive about laying the foundation for it. Do it early and don't belabor it otherwise, it will red-flag it too much.

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