Surprise, surprise.

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.DSCF4450

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:// 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 ( 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’s conquest

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.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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8 Responses to Surprise, surprise.

  1. Charli Mills says:

    Oh, that is too dang funny! You made me snort! Geoff, I can’t possible find where you are hiding and writing inadequacies. You capture so well the struggles we have inside and put them out there for the world to see as if your character is a metaphor for going out into the world. Great flash! Symbolism may hurt the butt, but your character bared his well.


  2. Annecdotist says:

    Yeah, I loved this one too, made me laugh out loud which takes some doing.
    Thanks too for your generous response to my flash and the link, and will respond on my blog shortly. I’m beginning to envisage a double act: your light to my dark mixed together like a box of contrast chocolates (hope they don’t still exist as I don’t want to advertise).


    • TanGental says:

      Great idea – to continue the advertising theme, it might be like those chimp tea ads ‘You hum it, son, and I’ll play it.’ Though, tbh, yours was class, mine just a bit of fun.


  3. Norah says:

    Yes, a lot of fun. It was certainly a surprise in the end – though so many clues strewn along the way (with his clothes?) Well done!


  4. TanGental says:

    Thank you Nora, and for the follow. Enjoying your insights.


  5. Lisa Reiter says:

    Tee Hee – I love it !


  6. Pingback: Surprise! « Carrot Ranch Communications

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