I’ve been doing some reviewing of books off Netgalley. This has allowed me to expand my reading into areas I might not have explored and to authors I might not have known about. I’ve found some gems. But this week, I started reading a romantic suspense and though it was written well enough, I knew in about twenty pages how the book would play out. I skipped to the end and discovered I was right. Now with some books, this predictability isn’t a problem. The journey and the characters will carry me through. This book? Not so much. I didn’t engage with the characters in that twenty pages and I wasn’t interested in knowing more. So that’s a did not finish book.

Predictability as a writer is necessary. There are things a character will not do and if you break out of those limits, then the unpredictability is bad. Readers engage with characters and need to know that what they are doing makes sense within who they are. And if they go ‘out of character,’ there has to be a logical/reasonable reason.

On the other hand, you want to be unpredictable. You don’t necessarily want to go with the obvious. You’ll sometimes hear the advice that when you’re plotting, you should brainstorm ideas about what should happen and you should go with the fifth or later. That way, the story will be fresh and not obvious, and yet your reader will say, of course! It makes perfect sense! How did I not see that coming?

I heard a story once about A.E. Van Vogt. He was known for unexpected twists and really fresh stories. The story I heard was that he once said that every so many words or pages, he’d take a hard right turn and do something completely unexpected. It was very deliberately done, rather mechanical. He didn’t think, so this is how the story is going, he thought, how can I jump out of this groove to somewhere else entirely? It takes enormous talent to be able to do that and still tell and coherent story with good characterization.

Whisper-of-Shadows-768x1152This, right now, is important to me because I’m 2/3 through the draft of this novel, and I stopped dead. It took me a day or so to figure out that I’d done two things wrong. I’d let two characters do something out of character for them, and the road I’d taken was too predictable. So I have to rip out about 15k words and figure out a new road that’s both exciting and within character, both predictable and unpredictable.

So I’ve spent the past couple of days figuring out where I jumped the shark and trying to plot out new and interesting ideas. My brain has been a little cottony on the subject, but I’m making progress.

What’s new in my book world? Riley’s dad is back and murder and mayhem are on the agenda: Whisper of Shadows.


author pic francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis writes books of a fantastical, adventurous, and often romantic nature. Her award-nominated books include The Path series, the Horngate Witches series, the Crosspointe Chronicles, and Diamond City Magic books, and the Mission:Magic series. She’s owned by two corgis, sp

ends much of her time herding children, and likes rocks, geocaching, knotting up yarn, and has a thing for 1800s England, especially the Victorians. For more about her writing, visit She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.


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