Surprise Me

Today at church I noticed a young lady whose husband was absent, juggling her two children on the row in front of me. I leaned over and asked if she thought her youngest would let me hold him to give her a break. She gratefully accepted. Her 4-5 month old who had been growling earlier turned to all smiles as he was passed back and my own children began ogling him.

Some time passed and soon the growling began anew until the child bent forward, unleashing an explosion of green slimy poop which shot up from the back of his diaper, splattering all over my jacket and pants and the seat beside me. Fortunately I’ve had children of my own and didn’t immediately drop the culprit, but settled in for the long haul as friendly hands passed wet wipes and the mother turned red with embarrassment.Surprise astonished man with wide open mouth stunned face

The moment I hope to never forget, however, was after his mom had whisked him away to be changed and I had, mostly, sponged up the green goop with towels and wet wipes. My four year old daughter, who had since scooted as far away from me as possible, turned to me and in a tone of all seriousness said, “Dad, you can never hold a baby again.”

Life is full of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. Some make us laugh, others make us wish we had chosen to walk down a different road. One that perhaps led to a dry cleaners for instance.

Over the past month or two I’ve had the privilege of assisting a few authors with their works-in-progress, “beta-reading” their novels and stories and providing feedback. Some have been excellent, others so-so, but there’s one universal thing I could have said to all of them —

“SURPRISE ME!” 

It’s not just in life that we hope to be surprised but in our choices of entertainment. Whether reading or watching a movie or television show or sports game, we long to see something new, something unique, something that we will remember and can talk about long after the event is over. In most of these novels there were some amazing ideas and concepts, but rarely were they taken to a place I couldn’t have predicted. I believe sometimes we sell ourselves short by coming to the first answer we find rather than looking for alternative solutions. Let the plot shock us, let characters have moments that we will always remember, acting in ways that are believable yet surprising. Take those great concepts and push them to the next level, dive deeper, drive further, shock us and make us remember what you have to share.

We will love you for it.

So if I had been a character in a story you were writing about a man at church who holds a baby that baptizes him in feces, what reaction might you play out that would be unexpected but yet believable? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below! I’m sure there are plenty of great ones, and me quietly cleaning that crap up is not one of them.

Remember when you’re writing, look beyond the crap for the unexpected.

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