Is it believable to hit your protagonist with the unexpected? But then, aren’t all protagonists hit with something they don’t expect? They’re attacked physically or verbally. He gets hit by a bus. She is attacked in her apartment. Something happens that they didn’t expect. And then the plot moves in a new direction.
Is there a point where the unexpected becomes unbelievable? Can it be too unexpected or so out of the blue that your readers won’t believe and will consider it contrived by the writer? But things in real life can come so out of the blue that they feel wrong - and yet they’re real.
I have two trips planned in the next two months. One to Lake Tahoe and one to Washington D.C. Hotel reservations made. Airplane reservations made and paid for. Dates marked off on the calendar. Conference registrations paid, plans made.
And yet…the unexpected happened. Yesterday I got summoned for Jury Service in Federal Court. For two months. I’ve been given the date and time to report and instructions that I must call in every Friday for those two months. Each Friday when I call in I will receive my reporting instructions.
I’ve been hit with the unexpected. If this were a book, then I, the protagonist, would find her future changed. She’d be on a jury where a jurist was bribed. She’d be on a jury where the accused escapes and takes her hostage. The case would involve millions of dollars paid to a crooked politician and she is the key to him being found guilty or innocent and she has a moral dilemma. She falls in love with a fellow jurist and when their tryst is found out, a scandal ensues.
But to make the unexpected work, you have to lay the groundwork. The protagonist would have received the notice of the possibility of being summoned (and not forgotten about it since it was months ago, the way I did). Giving up whatever has to be given up would need to be a true sacrifice (trust me, it is, although it's not life threatening). Then something would have to happen as a result of the unexpected. (I’m hoping that won’t happen in my case.)
The unexpected can be fun. Or not. It changes things. It will. And the protagonist copes. Because she doesn’t have a choice. And, thus, the plot veers off and moves forward.
Speaking of unexpected...yesterday I passed the Sunshine Award to five wonderful bloggers. I unexpectedly combined two of those bloggers. It should have gone to 6 bloggers. The two I mixed up were Cheryl Eklund and Saira Cee. If you have time, link over and tell them "hi" - you can even mention what a dunce I am. (Not that that is unexpected.)
4 months ago