What makes us keep reading a story? Our interest, of course. And if the story is constructed in an interesting way, there are elements of surprise on every page. So it is surprise that keeps us reading. As readers, these moments in the story jolt us. Often they create conflict. They make us ask ourselves, “What happens next?”
Surprise—the bubbling up of life—is created in many ways. The instance does not need to be dire. Abrupt change will do it.
In this scene from The Girl with the Golden Earrings, Kate visits Lorraine. She is met at the door by Lorraine’s friend, Frank.
It is morning, and a t-shirted Frank has a razor in his hand. His face lathered, he’s in the middle of shaving when he answers the bell. Unabashed, he introduces himself and talks, nonstop, subjects melting together. That’s a surprise in itself. I mean, when have you ever met a man who talks in paragraphs? To a stranger? In the morning?
Here’s the end of Frank’s remarks. He’s covered many subjects in a few minutes to an astonished Kate whom he’s just met. Now he’s talking about Lorraine’s car, a 1950s Plymouth she inherited from a friend:
“A decrepit rattletrap, you mean. Why she keeps that old thing is beyond me.” He lowered his voice and leaned toward her. “Just between me and you, the old girl could afford to buy a gold-leafed Mercedes, top of the line. She’s so LOADED that—”
Lorraine stood in the middle of the room, arms akimbo.