Three Reasons to Use the Unexpected in Your Writing

3 reasons to use the unexpected

By Kirsti Call-

Let’s take a look at stories from our childhood.  An elephant and a pig are best friends.  A dinosaur longs to dance the ballet.  A princess saves the prince from a dragon.   What do these stories have in common?  They are unexpected!

  1. nugget and fangUnexpected friendships create interest.  In Mo Willems’s, Elephant and Piggie series, we are not only surprised that elephant and piggie are good friends, but they also have opposite personalities.  In Nugget and Fang, a shark and a minnow are unlikely friends.  We want to read about how a shark and a minnow can possibly get along.
  2. out of my mindUnexpected goals create tension.  In Brontorina, a dinosaur longs to dance, but is too big for the ballet studio.  This unexpected goal for a dinosaur creates a great problem for the story.  In Out of My Mind, every character in the book is surprised when Melody wants to participate in an academic bowl.  They assume she isn’t smart enough because she has cerebral palsy. Her goal is unexpected and creates tension. We want to turn the page.
  3. Artemis-FowlUnexpected plot twists surprise the reader. In Paper Bag Princess,  the princess is the hero who saves the prince and in the end, chooses not to marry him.  This is the opposite of what we expect of a princess.  Artemis Fowl is a kid who wants to be a criminal mastermind and succeeds.  We do not expect a kid to be the villain, so we keep reading.

little hootActivity:

little mermaidNow it’s your turn.  Think of a character.  Give him the opposite of what you would expect.  Maybe you’re thinking of an owl who wants to sleep at night, or a pig that wants to be clean, or a little pea who hates to eat candy!
I’m thinking of a mermaid who wants to marry a human but she can’t live outside of the sea!  Wait, that’s already been done…

Share below. What ideas come to you when you combine a character with the opposite of what you expect?

Kirsti Call2

Kirsti Call is a writer, a reader, an author, a therapist, a mother of five! Her first book, the Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall came out in December. You can learn more about Kirsti here or visit her at


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7 thoughts on “Three Reasons to Use the Unexpected in Your Writing

  1. I love this activity, Kirsti! It is just the inspiration that I need to write a story on the last day of the month! My kids say a Minecraft character that wants to be a Creeper. I’m thinking more of a tree…that’s it! Time to develop this super secret idea! Thanks for the inspiration!!

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