First off, thank you so much to everyone who jumped in on Monday to give me advice. After thinking it over for a couple of days, I feel much more at ease. I realize I had a big fear of ending up homeless. Maybe that sounds extreme, but it was just a fear I had. I don't have that so much at the moment now, thanks to you.
I've been thinking a lot about expectations. I used to think that the best situation was for a reader to pick up one of my stories with no expectations at all. I liked the idea of the person being surprised by the newness of the story. But, last week I started working on a sequel to the book I wrote for my nephew. For those of you who might not be familiar with this, two Christmases ago, I wrote a Harry-Potter-type story starring my nephew. It was meant only for him, but when I gave it to him, it turned out to go terribly wrong. Tears were involved. The good side to the whole situation was that my sister-in-law and her sister both really liked the book. They are big readers, and they thought it was really cool. So, I had decided to write a sequel for them, something that could be darker and scarier and more mature. Some ideas came together for me last week that excited me, and so I started working on it.
But, I had a problem.
I was including a bunch of family stories that the two women would already be familiar with. This wasn't a huge problem, but somehow it wasn't as exciting for me to imagine them reading something they already knew about. Then, it hit me. I figured out a way to present their stories without them really knowing they were their stories. Even though the sisters are the stars of the show, I'm telling the old family stories using other character names. The two readers will be thinking they're reading about other people until the dramatic turning point in the middle of the story when the fake characters names are transformed into the real ones just as we reach the climax of the family stories that everyone will be familiar with.
Instead of the readers not expecting anything, they will approach the book expecting some things. But, now I get to play with those expectations and surprise them even more. I'm so excited!
What sorts of expectations to you set up in your story? How do you play with a reader's expectations?