I was watching Victorious with my nieces the other day. Okay – I lied. I was watching it for my own entertainment. (That show is like a guilty pleasure. It doesn’t hurt that my nieces love it too though.) And on the show while teaching his students acting, the teacher, Sikowitz, said, “When characters do the unexpected, people pay attention.”
Although that’s true for acting, it’s equally true for writing. No one wants to read about a character doing predictable things.
“Oh well, that vampire is going to drink animal blood.” Oh wait. “Human blood!? He just killed someone!”
See the difference?
These days, people have these “good vampires.” I say bring on the blood-sucking vamps who want to take over the world and kill anyone who gets in their way. That’s not to say there aren’t vampires who don’t want to take over the world, but ALL vampires should drink humans. *
Back to topic now…
Even if a character grabs Cheerios instead of Apple Jacks when s/he always goes for the Apple Jacks. That’s unexpected. It means your character has changed. But why do they change their cereal? That’s when you keep your readers guessing.
I know that’s kind of a mundane example but even our characters have to do some mundane things.
What if suddenly your main character pulls out a knife and stabs a random stranger while on a nature hike? S/he has never done that before. Shoot, s/he probably never thought about it before. So what’s going on? Have aliens taken over your main character’s brain? Is s/he hypnotized? These are the things that will grab your readers’ (or reader’s) attention.
What unexpected thing has your character done?
* Sorry about the vampire analogy. (I have vamps on the brain since I’m writing about them.)