We may crave order and predictability in our lives, but in stories and poetry, humans of all ages thrive on surprise. In fact, an area of our brains is hard-wired to derive pleasure from it. Why? Because the unexpected shakes up our assumptions. Employed well, it hooks and engages the reader, gives pleasure, shapes and then transforms the reader’s perceptions, and is one of, if not the most, fundamental elements of story.
Join us as author Ann Jacobus uses examples from children’s fiction, ranging from Dav Pilkey to Rainbow Rowell, and exercises involving our current projects, to explore how the unexpected works in almost all elements of writing: in language; in humor; as an integral part of character, and as a powerful engine for plot. Understanding how and why surprise works is guaranteed to make us stronger writers.
Ann Jacobus is the author of YA novel, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light (Macmillan 2015), a suicide crisis line counselor, mom, writing teacher, and reader. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA, and has published short stories, poetry, essays, and recently completed a chapter book for younger readers that’s currently on submission. She lives in San Francisco with her family and dog Louie, and enjoys long walks and binge-watching cable series.