Hello, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve written a discussion post, so please bear with me. 🙈 As you can probably tell from the title, today’s post is about predictable books and whether they help or hurt a story.
Before I started blogging, I would have said that I hated predictable books. I thought they were uninspired and boring. (I also hated contemporaries before I started blogging, but now, it’s one of my favorite genres so look at how far we’ve come.) My mentality was that if a book were predictable, then there was no point in reading it because I already knew what was going to happen. However, now I’ve come to appreciate some predictability, and I genuinely think it can add value to a story.
Of course, my personal opinion may not represent every other reader’s. In order to have a more holistic view, I’ve gathered some not-so-scientific survey data from others in the community via Twitter. More than half of the responders said they didn’t like predictable books, but what’s most interesting are the responses for when predictability is appreciated.
Those who commented shared the sentiment that predictability doesn’t always prevent a reader from enjoying the story and, if anything, their final thoughts come down to the author’s execution. If the characters are lovable and the writing flows nicely, it’s interesting to see how an author puts their spin. Therefore, as Shealea commented, “Predictability can be endearing.”
Predictability is genre-dependent.
In my opinion, predictability is genre-dependent, meaning it’s appreciated and loved in certain genres more so than others. For example, contemporaries have more leeway for predictability than fantasy novels. Part of the enjoyment of reading a fantasy novel is experiencing the world-building. ✨ It’s unexpected and a key factor that sets it apart because while characters need to be full-developed regardless of the genre, world-building creates the setting and provides context in fantasy novels. (whereas in contemporary novels Earth is just Earth)
The magic of Six of Crows (Whoo!! TV series announcement!) and the Percy Jackson books (We don’t talk about those movies.) is that Leigh Bardugo and Rick Riordan crafted magical, enticing worlds for even more amazing characters to adventure. Although they are tied into our world which is familiar, they are also uniquely their own which allows the authors to add their spin and take the story where they like. Since we as readers don’t know the full scope of the world, we also don’t know what can or cannot happen within it.
Sometimes we want predictable.
At the same time, as much as we enjoy being surprised, we may also want the comfort of knowing what’s going to happen. I read contemporaries to feel warm and fuzzy inside. Certain clichés are cliché for a reason, and reading them makes me happy. 💞 For example, I read a Kasie West novel because I know that my characters are going to end up happily ever after. Granted, I don’t enjoy being able to predict everything that happens before it actually happens, but I do enjoy seeing classic rom-com scenes interwoven into a romance of characters I can get behind.
Another great example of wanting predictability is when we read a retelling. We know the basic outline and structure of the story, but we want to see how an author takes it above and beyond. How are they different from the Disney movie? How will they rework a classic tale? For me, To Kill a Kingdom and the Lunar Chronicles are two examples of retellings that were predictable yet filled with fantastic characters and worldbuilding.
Execution is key.
Like many other readers, I love a great plot twist…keyword being great. One of my pet peeves is when an author writes something purely for shock value without giving the story any foreshadowing or proper development. Plot twists need to make sense in the broader scope of the story *cough cough Allegiant* The ending of Mark of Athena in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan is one of my favorite plot twists because it hit that perfect balance of heartstopping surprise and, yet, was somehow expected.
In the end, it’s not so much the predictability that affects a reader’s final rating on a book but rather how the author writes it into the story. A good plot twist leaves you wanting more, but something predictable can be just as satisfying. 🌟