Do you like surprises? My grandma didn’t. She assumed they would be of the ‘nasty’ sort. This probably reflects her fairly tough life experiences, rather than any innate pessimism. In contrast the Vet loves surprises, both giving and receiving them. A function of her relative youth I suppose.
In life, so in literature. We are all familiar with the clever reveal that leaves us floundering; we never saw it coming even if the clues were there. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks certainly did that for me at the end. But then I’m notorious for not seeing the bleedin’ obvious. I’m capable of Man-Fridge moments in reading as much as in life. It still remains a joy when you encounter one that is a genuine surprise.
In Game of Thrones, the standard ‘surprise’ seems to be to kill off a leading character just when you are sure he or she will survive to be the heroic King of all the lands (or whatever it is that the person who sits on the Iron Throne gets to boss – why ‘Iron’ btw? You’d think they’d go for something softer? That’s the trouble with symbolism – it hurts the butt. Lord Hailsham used to complain, when Lord Chancellor about have to sit on the Woolsack because it played havoc with his haemorrhoids). It’s advice that, frankly is over-used and has the effect of leaving you as an uncaring viewer – ‘Meah, so he/she/it died. ‘Bout time. Next!’ Like too much good chocolate. Don’t overdo it.
Anyway, this week’s flash fiction challenge from the Carrot Ranch (http://http://carrotranch.com/2014/05/21/may-21-flash-fiction-challenge/) is In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows surprise without using the word.
Neat, I thought. I can do this. And then I read the Annecdotist’s piece (http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/the-ingredients-of-a-story-without-following-a-recipe). Damn. It’s the perfect flash, in my book, as it really does hit you with a jump and leaves you asking so many more questions. I can’t wait to find out why. I gave up. For about an hour.
Still, I’m coming to terms with my inadequacies as a writer. And I still had this idea. So I’ve gone with humour as an antidote to Anne’s darkness. See what you think.
Norman knew he wouldn’t win Betty without something special.
‘Knock her dead, boy,’ said Grandma.
‘Stun her, son,’ said Mum.
He swallowed hard. ‘Come over. It’s my birthday.’
He spent ages getting ready, but would it work?
Norman flung open his door with his eyes squeezed shut. When, finally, he opened them, he knew he’d exceeded expectations.
There was Betty, kneeling by Norman’s stunned mother who, in turn, held what looked like his dead grandma. All round lay presents.
Norman made for the phone. ‘I’ll call an ambulance.’
‘I think you might put your clothes on first,’ said Betty.