We strolled on the banks of a river and discovered two angling lakes linked by a series of cascades. Fishermen stood on the edges and cast their lines into the water. We watched for a while to see if they caught anything—I have to admit I hoped they wouldn’t have any success. Yip, I’m on the fishes’ side.
We went into the visitor center to have a cup of coffee and snack in the café. My husband chatted to a fly fishing instructor in the reception area. She gave him a rundown on the facilities and fishing opportunites in the park. She boasted that a large rainbow trout, all of 17 pounds, had been caught the previous day.
Later we sat in the café and as we finished our food, the instructor walked in with a large leather pouch slung round her neck. She came over to our table and with a big grin unfastened the top of the pouch.
I caught my breath. What was it? Yesterday’s big catch? I really didn’t want to see the poor fish, but I couldn’t look away.
We craned our necks to see inside the pouch, but only saw folds of fleecy fabric. The instructor moved the fleece apart slightly and revealed a dark fin-like structure.
She eased open the rest of the fleece. Two dark brown eyes stared at me from the recesses of the pouch.
“What is it?” I asked.
She drew out . . . a little wallaby. It snuggled up in her arms.
Bet you thought it was a dead fish, just as I did. The fin-like structure was not a fin, it was a paw.
What was a baby wallaby doing in Ireland? Well, the instructor explained, it had been born in her front garden. Yip, that sure solved the mystery.
She saw our puzzled looks so explained that his parents had been sent to Ireland when a zoo closed down. Their new owners didn’t have a permit to keep them, so she had been authorized to look after them. The wallabies had settled down very well, so much so that they refused to stay in the warm during winter and loved to play in the snow. Eventually they produced the furry little fellow we were now stroking.
So what does this story have to do with reading and writing?
If you’re like me, you enjoy reading a story which ends with a good twist. Have you ever wondered how authors produce these surprise endings?
I discovered that often a writer plots the end before writing the book. Then, as he writes, he deliberately includes details and events which make readers form misconceptions. These wrong assumptions produce an expectation of a very different conclusion to the real one. At the end of the story, he turns the readers’ assumptions on their head. He reveals how the details and events actually culminated in an ending which the readers didn’t anticipate. And there’s the twist in the tale.