I never know where I’m going and neither should your reader! Okay, never is an exaggeration, but I have what I like to call directional dyslexia. I know they haven’t created this term yet (that I know of) and I’m not belittling dyslexic people (many of my students are dyslexic) but I literally get directions turned around in my head. If I make five turns, then reverse order, I often want to go the opposite way! I don’t know why! If I think it through, I can get it, but it is tough for me!
Why am I sharing this embarrassing detail? Well, I feel like books need to do this to us on occasion. I don’t mean never let your reader know where your story is going, but certainly don’t give them a perfect map with precise directions. Give them MIS-direction.
I have to be honest here, if I read a book and I know within the first few chapters where the story is going, I feel cheated! Why should I give up my precious time to something so predictable? I’ve read lots of books, watched my share of movies, I have an idea how these things work. It doesn’t mean that I need the tables turned 100% every time, but give me something interesting. Don’t just replicate a story that’s already been told! UGH!
How do we do that? There are lots of strategies to achieve this. The one we’re focused on today is misdirection. Misdirection means exactly what you’d think…point your reader in one direction while going the other. This can be subtle or a big part of the story. Use your judgement for what is best for your book.
There are many ways to accomplish this. The options are limitless. Want grand examples? Think of Snape in Harry Potter. What did you think of him in the first few books as opposed to the end? Remember the movie Sixth Sense? The whole movie rests upon masterful misdirection. I’ve added some links below if you want to further explore this technique.
Just make them wonder. Respect your audience. They don’t want to be spoon fed a story. They want to be enthralled with one. Misdirection is one of the things we can do to help accomplish this.